TALLAHASSSEE — In a state where the governor says education is public if taxpayers fund it, where deep-pocket donors bankroll TV ads to push taxpayer dollars for private and religious schools, where the Legislature’s most significant education initiative is a massive new giveaway of public funds to those same unaccountable institutions:
Who speaks for Florida’s neighborhood public schools?
Nearly 800 people have already signed up to help answer that question and envision the path forward for public education in a challenging environment.
“Bringing Voices Together: An Education Summit for Florida’s Public Schools” will take place on Saturday, May 18, in Orlando. This event is sponsored by the Florida Education Association (FEA) and its partners in the new Coalition for Florida’s Public Schools, including the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, Black Women’s Roundtable, Equality Florida, Fund Education Now, League of Women Voters of Florida, NAACP Florida State Conference, Pastors for Florida Children and the Puerto Rican Action Initiative.
“We see this summit as the start of something big, a real grassroots movement that brings together many disparate voices for our schools,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “Along with the majority of people in Florida, we believe that public education is a fundamental good for this state and for the nation as a whole. But our neighborhood public schools are under attack — there’s no other way to describe it. If public education is going to have a future in Florida, it’s time for the people who care about our public schools to step forward and take control of the conversation.”
The event is open to anyone concerned about our public schools. There is no charge to attend, but those who would like to participate are asked to register at http://bit.ly/May18Summit. Lunch will be provided for registered participants.
The summit will be hosted by the World Café Community Foundation, which specializes in facilitating large-group dialogues that are intended to turn small-group conversations into individual commitments to action. World Café’s process is guided by “an assumption that people/stakeholders in their collective wisdom already have within them the capacity to confront even the most difficult challenges.”
The summit’s overarching goal lies in uniting the allies of public education. “I want people to leave the summit knowing they have joined a team,” Ingram said. “I want us to realize our collective power.”
Sponsors and participants have high expectations for the gathering.
“Any Floridian who sees high quality public education as a shared community value should be part of the Bringing Voices Together Summit. Nearly 3 million public school children need us to stand for them. This is a rare opportunity to expand understanding, build coalitions and define a new level of investment and equity for all students.”
— Kathleen Oropeza, founder, Fund Education Now
“After the disastrous results of the 2019 legislative session, it is critical that we heighten our work with our partners in the education community to prevent further assaults on our public education system.”
— Patti Brigham, president, League of Women Voters of Florida
“Bringing Voices Together is a continuation of the activism we saw in the April 17th walk-in. Educators across the state are joining with parents, community leaders, faith leaders — anyone who believes in public education — to make our voices heard. St. Johns Education Association is excited to participate. We have invited school board members, our superintendent and community activists. Our neighborhood public schools are the backbone of our county, and we need the support of all stakeholders to advocate for our future.”
— Michelle Dillon, president, St. Johns Education Association
As we move forward, I know that my legacy will be the children’s lives I have touched and the communities that have been changed forever, because we were willing to step out and have those conversations that are open and honest regardless of the political climate or the obstacles there are to overcome. I have never been able to do this standing alone. This is the core of the Bringing Voices Together Summit — united, we can accomplish great goals for our students and public schools.”
— Donna Harper, president, Escambia Education Association
What: Bringing Voices Together: An Education Summit for Florida’s Public Schools
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, May 18
Where: Hilton Orlando, 6001 Destination Parkway, Orlando
Who: Teachers, school employees, parents, civic and community leaders, and anyone concerned about our public schools
Registration: Online at http://bit.ly/May18Summit
Members of the media are welcome to attend all or part of the summit. To request press credentials or an advance interview with FEA President Fedrick Ingram or another summit participant, please contact Joni Branch,firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on local summit participants, please contact a local FEA affiliate. Find contact information by clicking on the appropriate county here: https://feaweb.org/affiliates.
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 140,000 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.