FEBRUARY 3, 2020 - BROOKSVILLE, FL
The 2020 Legislative Session in Tallahassee began on January 13th with a massive demonstration at the capitol staged by educators and public school activists demanding that our public schools receive the funding and support they so deperately need. The Fund Our Future rally cry came from far and wide and was covered by the media across the state and nationally. And the message was clear: Fund Public Schools!
Educators from Hernando County were among the thousands who converged in the state's capital. They wanted to make sure that the voices of local advocates were heard. "The rally in Tallahassee wasn’t just about salary—though why we should feel bad about asking for reasonable pay is beyond me. There’s so much more that educators want—including an end to harmful state tests and proper funding to keep class sizes at the size the citizens of our state voted on TWICE!" says Susan Pribil, a middle school teacher and HCTA member.
Weeks later the rally continues as public school advocates bring the message back home to their communities. Regional rallies are being planned across the state and here in Hernando efforts are underway to organize a local education summit to coincide with Public Schools Week (February 24-28).
"We'll keep rallying, and we'll keep organizing, and we'll keep pushing our legislators in Tallahassee to do the right thing. The time to Fund Our Future is now!" Vince La Borante, President of Hernando Classroom Teachers' Association, says that teachers have been energized by the organizing activity they see in the media and are finding strength in having a collective voice. "Teachers know that the trajectory has to change. We need to be able to attract AND retain teachers, and that's very hard to do when salary increases can't keep up with rising insurance costs."
The leadership of Hernando Classroom Teachers' Association points to the state's budget and education policies as a root cause for a growing teacher shortage in the state. In spite of recent budget increases, Florida's K-12 education budget has not yet caught up to pre-recession levels in 2007-2008, when adjusted for inflation. Florida ranks in the bottom 10 states in both per pupil spending and pay for educators, so it's not hard to understand why statewide instructional vacancies meant more than 300,000 students began the 2019-2020 school year without a certified teacher in their classroom.
"The only way to turn things around is for this state to commit to a serious investment in our public schools," says Val Smith, HCTA Executive Director. "That's why we have to keep rallying."
HCTA encourages public education advocates to connect to the information available through the Florida Education Association and through the HCTA website.