BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Teachers, parents and community members marched outside schools across Florida on Wednesday in a push to increase education funding in the state.
The "walk-in" was organized by the Florida Education Association, which said public schools have been facing a funding crisis.
"We're asking anyone who cares about our neighborhood public schools and our students to make some noise," FEA President Fedrick Ingram said. "Our public schools have been on a starvation diet for more than a decade."
Currently, Florida ranks 42nd in per-student spending and 46th in teacher pay.
"We're saying that's not good enough," elementary teacher Diane Mark said. "Our politicians can do better for our students and they need to do better."
Mark was one of dozens participating in the walk-in outside Fairglen Elementary in Cocoa.
Brevard Federation of Teachers union President Anthony Colucci said the level of funding for schools is “unacceptable," according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
“We have a funding crisis in the state of Florida,” he yelled into a megaphone.
Colucci said the walk-in was a symbolic way of showing solidarity among educators, and that the community members who participate are “with us.” He said 24 of Brevard County's 83 schools participated in the event. More than 40 counties in Florida also took part.
The 10-minute march included people wearing red in support of education and waving signs that read "Fund our Future" and other phrases that called for more funding. Once the group arrived on the Fairglen campus, just as buses were pulling up, teachers went inside to their classrooms to start the school day.
The topic is one that's already weighed heavy on the minds of teachers in Brevard County where the union remains locked in a contract fight with the district over higher wages.
"When the money's not there, it is a little disheartening and I don't think it's any secret that educators spend a lot of their own money to purchase things that they need for their classroom," Mark said.
State and local unions are calling on supporters to sign a petition to increase per-student spending by $743.
The proposal is far higher than the current budgets devised by lawmakers in the state Legislature.
The Senate has proposed increasing education funding by $1.1 billion, or $350 per student. The House, meanwhile, has called for education to be increased by $600 million.
State lawmakers will vote on their final budget before the end of the legislative session, which is scheduled for May 3.
"I think the politicians need to take a step back and look at (our support) and see this is what the public wants," Mark said. "The public wants a good solid funding for education for our children."
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