With the governor and Republican lawmakers pushing to expand vouchers for kids to attend private schools, educators and supporters across the state plan to rally Wednesday for traditional public schools.
The event, called a walk-in — teacher strikes are not allowed — will give educators, staff, union members, parents and community members the chance to gather a half hour to 45 minutes before the school workday begins Wednesday.
“They may picket, pray or simply share coffee and doughnuts, then employees will walk into school together,” according to a news release by the Florida Education Association. The statewide union along with local unions organized the event.
More than 300 schools in 41 counties are expected to join the walk-ins outside of school buildings, hoping to bolster funding for traditional public schools.
“We’re asking anyone who cares about our neighborhood public schools and our students to make some noise,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement.
“Speak now, before time runs out this (legislative) session to do the right thing for Florida’s kids. Our public schools have been on a starvation diet for more than a decade, and you see the effects statewide — in an unprecedented teacher shortage, in classroom crowding, in failing A/C systems and aging facilities.”
“Legislators must make a significant investment in our schools, our students, and the teachers and education staff professionals who work with and on behalf of those kids every day. We’re calling for an increase of at least $743 per student, about 10 percent, which still won’t lift Florida’s education spending to the national average.”
When educators reference “neighborhood” schools, they’re talking about traditional public schools that many moms, dads and grandparents may have attended. As kids, they would have been in school “zones” and sent to a specific school in the neighborhood.
But with the advent of “school choice,” families have more options. For example, they can send their child to a public charter school that is run by a private entity, or get “scholarships,” also known as vouchers, to send their child to a private school using public dollars.
The rise in charter schools and the push to expand vouchers has created a divide between those neighborhood schools and the nontraditional and private schools.
On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a public high school graduate from Florida, decided to discuss his education agenda by going to a Christian school in Tampa. There, he highlighted voucher programs to help kids attend private schools.
The Florida Education Association said the public is invited to sign a petition calling on DeSantis and lawmakers to increase funding for public schools at https://actionnetwork.org/