Thousands stand up for neighborhood public schools, students and educators

Who says Florida’s neighborhood public schools need better funding? The people do.

Time and again, this state’s electorate has demonstrated broad, bipartisan consensus on the need to invest in our neighborhood public schools, our students and educators.

But to make improved funding happen, the Legislature must act. On April 23, the Florida Education Association (FEA) presented nearly 25,000 more reasons for state lawmakers to properly fund our schools.

During April, the FEA and local unions invited teachers, school staff, parents and the general public to “stand up for neighborhood public schools” by signing a petition calling on state senators, representatives and our governor to increase base-allocation funding by 10 percent per student.

A 10-percent increase still would not get us to the national average. Florida ranks among the bottom 10 states in funding for our students, and education spending here remains below pre-recession levels. The average teacher salary in Florida has dropped to 46th in the nation, and we face a growing teacher shortage. Many school staff earn a wage below the federal poverty line. The time for change is now: Lawmakers must fund our future by investing in public education.

The petition drive collected almost 25,000 signatures, and boxes holding reams of printed petitions were presented at an FEA news conference on education funding on April 23 at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Afterward, the petitions were wheeled on a cart to the office of state House Speaker José Oliva.

All those petitions were the only the latest evidence of widespread support for helping our schools. Almost 2 million Floridians voted in 2018 to increase their local taxes to improve funding for neighborhood public schools and increase educator pay. This week in St. Lucie County, two-thirds of voters supported a referendum to raise their property-tax rate in order to fund teacher salaries, school safety and educational programs.

Throughout Florida and nationwide, opinion polls consistently show support for greater investment in public education and for paying educators like the professionals they are.