‘Take on Tallahassee!’ Protest Sparks Controversy

Florida Teachers Protest For Better Education For The Benefits Of Their Students


Patrick Deliz

“Red for Ed” is one of the various charities supporting teachers across the state.

Patrick Deliz, Writer

On Monday, Florida teachers wearing “Red for Ed” campaign shirts march on the capital in Tallahassee, fighting for more than just a raise. 

The “Take on Tallahassee”  Rally is a movement for improved funding for students and schools, fair pay to all educators, and an end to the misguided policies that have led to the over-testing of students and the loss of local control in Florida’s districts. Supported by Florida’s parents, educators, and community supporters there is a growing demand for change by legislators.

News of the unrest travels fast as U.S. Senator and leading Democratic presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren, responded on Twitter, writing “Florida teachers are rallying for fair pay and better funding for schools, and they won’t be intimidated or undermined. I stand with the teachers—and I’ll fight so that teachers get the fair pay and well-funded schools they need and deserve.”

The Florida Education Association (F.E.A.) is proposing a 10 percent salary increase. Along with this, the Florida Education Association says they need $2.4 billion to fund the salary increase, despite not saying where the money will come from. At the moment, the starting salary for teachers is just a little over $37,000 and with the salary increase it would raise it over $40,000.

The Florida Education Association said it is willing to transport thousands of educators, teachers, parents, and public education supporters to Tallahassee for a “Take on Tallahassee” march, while the State Senate Education Committee discusses on a plan to improve the pay for classroom instructors.

Three months ago, Governor Ron DeSantis declared that the 2020 legislative session, which would officially begin Tuesday, would be the “Year of the Teacher.” Similar to the Florida Education Associations’ proposition, he has unveiled a proposal to set a statewide minimum teacher salary at $47,500 and a new bonus program.

Teachers throughout Florida have requested days off in advance to attend the rally. Although, teachers in Polk County are outraged when they received an email, threatening their jobs and what they stand for. However according to Florida Law, any organized work “stops” by public employees, such as teachers and educators, in order to change the condition of their workplace, is not permitted.

Spokeswoman for the Florida Education Association, Sharon Nesvig, said “The state teachers’ union’s lawyers determined that because the participating teachers have requested the time off, allowing time for districts to find substitutes, their rally is not a strike. Furthermore, it’s protected by the Florida Constitution’s guarantee of the right to peacefully assemble.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times, more than 1,600 teachers told the district they would call out on Monday (a number that is extensively greater than those bigger urban districts). Department’s General Counsel, Matthew Mears, sent out an email to all teachers stating that “a concerted failure to report for duty constitutes an illegal strike under Florida law” as well as how “a public employee violating the strike provision may be terminated.”

Teachers are tired of being treated like second-class citizens, and being seen as if they do not carry any weight. It seems like everyone wants someone to blame, so it gets taking on the teacher, when all that energy really should be used to create support within the classroom for both the teachers and the benefit of the students. Orange County Fourth Grade Math and Science teacher, Heather Lambert, attended the rally and carries a strong message.

I was motivated to attend because as a public school teacher and a parent of children that attend public schools, I am sad to see the current state of our schools and what it’s doing to our students and teachers. State testing, developmentally inappropriate standards, unmanageable workloads and nonstop demands all for low pay makes teaching a field that many, including myself, have a hard time staying committed to and one that many are no longer even considering when entering college. It’s all backwards and it needs to be fixed. Constant stress on teachers and students is not how anyone learns and grows. Legislatures need to stop this destructive path and actually listen to the teachers if fixing education is what they really want. However, it seems what they really want is to dismantle public education and give all the money to charter and private schools. Those schools aren’t even held under the same guidelines a public schools.”