Local educators to host ‘Take a Stand for Public Education Rally’
Nearly one week after teachers statewide participated in a virtual rally hosted by the Florida Education Association, local union leaders scheduled their own rally Wednesday.
The “Take a Stand for Public Education Rally” begins at 6 p.m. at the Lee Education Center at 2855 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers. Union leaders from the Teachers Association and Support Personnel Associations of Lee County are inviting all members of the community to bring attention to important educational issues.
“It’s about SB 6 and all of the things they’re trying to do to public education,” said Donna Mutzenard, service unit director for the FEA.
Unions are protesting the passage of SB 6, a bill to mandate teacher performance pay, as well as damaging financial cuts to the Lee County School District.
FEA Vice President Joanne McCall is the featured speaker at the event, as well as TALC President Mark Castellano and SPALC President Bob Rushlow.
The virtual education rally, hosted on MakeOurSchoolsAPriority.org, brought approximately 10,000 online in the first hour, said Mark Pudlow, spokesperson for FEA.
“Since then we’ve added a bunch more. We’ve had upwards of 40,000 people who have been rally participants,” he said, adding that 17,000 petitions were signed and thousands of e-mails sent to legislators.
Mutzenard said it is likely that the federal Race to the Top program will also be a discussion point during the rally. On Monday the U.S. Department of Education awarded first phase grants to the states of Delaware and Tennessee.
Delaware is slated to receive $100 million and Tennessee approximately $500 million. Applications for the second phase are due on June 1.
Rushlow said SB 6 could cost Lee County $30 million because it requires 5 percent of all district budgets to be sent to Tallahassee to fund the program. And he is worried that the cuts would be shouldered by support staff.
“The support staff provides the services for the school, it could impact indoor air quality, the individual care that children need, food service and maintenance,” said Rushlow.
He said he is disappointed with many of the ideas coming out of the Florida Legislature.
“If they (legislators) don’t watch what they’re going to do, they’re going to bankrupt the state of Florida,” he said.
The Race to The Top program is likely to be a big issue for Lee County now that applications are being accepted for phase 2, said Rushlow. He wants the Florida Department of Education to sit down with local union leaders and school boards to complete an application that may bring more funding to Florida.
Union leaders will discuss funding issues because the Lee County School District is currently working on building its 2010-2011 budget.
Mutzenard said she doesn’t know how many people to expect at the rally.
“I know between e-mails and people we’ve talked to, that we think it should be quite a crowd,” she said.