TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Education Association (FEA) announced Monday that the Fund Our Future Bus Tour for public education will be followed by a Take on Tallahassee Rally on Jan. 13 in downtown Tallahassee.
“This is a movement for our students. On January 13th, I will be on the steps of the Old Capitol, and I will be looking out at a sea of red,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “We are joining with educators, parents and communities throughout this state to redefine the way Florida’s lawmakers talk about and treat public schools.”
The Jan. 13 Take on Tallahassee Rally is intended to drive home to state lawmakers the need to invest in public education and to change policies that harm our students. It is expected to draw public education supporters from the Big Bend region and throughout Florida. The public is invited to show up on Jan. 13 and show their support for our students and schools, wearing “red for ed” if they’re inclined. Teachers and education support staff who have made appropriate arrangements with their employers also will attend. Rally time and location details will be provided closer to the date.
The FEA sees growing dissatisfaction with more than a decade of state neglect of public schools, state overreach in terms of local control of schools, the over-testing of students, and a school accountability system that punishes poverty and whole communities.
Florida ranks among the bottom 10 states nationally in funding for our students, and education spending remains below pre-recession levels. The average teacher salary in Florida has dropped to 46th in the nation, while many school staff earn a wage below the federal poverty line. We face growing shortages of teachers and school staff such as bus drivers and paraprofessionals.
The Fund Our Future campaign and bus tour
The Fund Our Future campaign aims to compel lawmakers to invest in students, invest in PreK-12 public schools and higher education, and invest in recruiting and retaining the teachers and support staff essential to Florida’s schools. The FEA is advocating for a Decade of Progress for public schools, starting with a $2.4 billion education funding increase in the 2020-2021 budget.
The FEA Fund Our Future Bus Tour launched Oct. 18 in Orlando, made its first stop in Bay County on Oct. 21, and will make more than 50 stops in more than 30 counties before wrapping up in Orlando on Nov. 23.
In the first week of the tour, FEA leaders visited schools and attended events in Bay, Gadsden, Washington, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Escambia counties. They helped give away books to students; read to kindergarteners; met with teachers and education staff, school administrators and district leaders, parents and other community members; and joined in community conversations about the state of local schools.
They were surprised most, said FEA Vice President Andrew Spar, by “how much hope is still out there” among teachers, education staff and school administrators despite the obstacles placed in their path by the state Legislature.
That hope for change and better days ahead was there:
- In Gadsden County, which has the lowest average teacher pay in Florida.
- In Okaloosa County, where some schools have roofs so leaky that staff put out buckets or cover computer equipment with plastic.
- In Escambia County, where a Pensacola middle school may face closure due to this state’s misguided school grading system.
The Fund Our Future campaign is intended to channel the hope for change into action, and to bring about a better future for our students and schools. At bus tour stops, FEA leaders invite education stakeholders to join us in Tallahassee on Jan. 13.
Here are the counties where the Fund Our Future bus will stop during the rest of the tour:
- This week: Leon, Suwanee, Gilchrist, Bradford, Alachua and Hernando counties.
- Nov. 3-9: Manatee, Collier, DeSoto, Pinellas, Hillsborough
- Nov. 10-16: Brevard, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe
- Nov. 17-23: Duval, Clay, Nassau, St. Johns, Volusia, Seminole, Osceola, Polk, Orange
CONTACT: Joni Branch, (850) 201-3223 or (850) 544-7055
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 145,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.