Across the country, teachers are making headlines as they go on strike. But in Florida, where teacher pay languishes well behind the national average thanks to politicians like Gov. Rick Scott, that’s not an option due to a clause in our state constitution that prohibits strikes by public employees. State law imposes draconian penalties on public employee unions if their members engage in a labor strike. Teachers can even lose their jobs and their pensions.
But no Floridian is powerless. Together, we can fight back against Gov. Scott and his allies in the state legislature. Their record is clear: they’ve underfunded public school budgets to pay for massive corporate tax cuts and siphoned tax dollars to unaccountable for-profit voucher and charter schools. Legislative leaders and Gov. Scott’s Department of Education have imposed a cookie-cutter curriculum based on standardized testing and gone as far as tying teacher bonuses to their college entrance exam scores! To add insult to injury, they continue to thumb their nose at Florida’s voter approved class size amendment.
Once again this past session, legislative leaders ignored pleas from educators and showed they really don’t care about our public schools. Lawmakers passed, and Gov. Scott signed into a law, a boondoggle of an education bill that drains more money from public schools for private school vouchers and, in a direct attack on teachers, imposes requirements that could lead to decertification of local teachers' unions.
Adding to the outrage, the legislature passed a ‘school safety’ bill in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that encourages teachers and school personnel to act as armed guards – despite vocal opposition from many teachers, parents and students.
I’ve been fighting to strengthen our public schools since managing the successful 2002 Florida class size amendment. Now, after nearly eight years of Gov. Scott and two decades of Republican attacks, it has never been more important to show support for our teachers and public education in Florida and to build a groundswell of grassroots support for meaningful action and change. Thanks for standing with Florida’s teachers and our public schools.