Reporting Gary Nelson
Legislative Session Coverage
MIAMI (CBS4)- A crowd of a hundred of so parents, teachers, and students showed up at Coral Park High School in West Miami-Dade as part of a larger protest against proposed cuts in public school funding.
Public school teachers, parents, students, public sector employees and members of the community, including the United Teachers of Dade, were participating by walking-in to local public schools in the county from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Unions often come under fire for supposedly planning work-place walk-outs, which they say they do not condone. With the county-wide public schools walk-in, participants who are a part of the event will show their support by walking into public schools.
“What do we want? Funding!” the group at Coral Park High School chanted.
“Legislators are killing education in Florida,” said teacher Valerie Petersen.
Sydney Kramer, a student from Everglades Elementary School attended the protest with her parents.
“I’m here to support teachers and make education better,” the student said.
UTD president Karen Aronowitz said the cuts in funding will leave children without the education they need for their future. The United Teachers of Dade represents 32,000 teachers and school support personnel in Miami-Dade County public schools.
“We are proud of the accomplishments of our public school students and teachers,” she said. “We are asking our community to stand with us to keep our kids safe and our public schools open. Our public schools are not for sale and they are not for profit. The governor and legislators have an obligation to the children of Florida. Either they will live up to that obligation, or we’ll find someone who will.”
Banyan Elementary at 3060 Southwest 85th Avenue in Miami will be one of the locations where parents, teachers and students will come together. A large turn out was expected from those in the community who are outraged with Florida governor Rick Scott’s proposed budget cuts to the education system.
“We need the funds for our schools to make sure our children have what they need for their future and to make sure that public education our schools stay open,” Aronowitz said Thursday. “They’re in danger of closing at this point.”
Aronowitz said taxpayers should get what they pay for.
“We have to put education at the top of the pile, especially in Miami-Dade County,” she said. “We pay our taxes, in fact, we pay more in taxes for our schools than any other county in the state and we receive less.”
Meanwhile, Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent for Miami-Dade public schools, toured several inner city schools Thursday that have seen significant improvements over the last couple of years and bemoaned the spectre of the cuts making their way through the legislature.
“My concern is about what you’ve seen here today,” he said. “It’s about protecting teacher quality, it’s about protecting communities from the ravages of budget reductions.”
Last Thursday, thousands of teachers, parents and students across South Florida and the state gathered in Tallahassee to try to persuade legislators to restore the previous cuts to education and make provisions for a stable source of funding for education.
Governor Rick Scott’s proposed $3 billion education budget cut would include eliminating more than 40,000 jobs in the state, many of them teachers. Two weeks ago, lawmakers kicked off the 2011 legislative session in Tallahassee when Scott gave his State of the State address.
Since then, public employees, including various interest groups, have been protesting the proposed cuts.
The Broward Teachers Union is also trying to stress the need for additional funding for public schools. They claim that students suffer from the cuts.
“What we don’t like is what’s happening right now,” Pat Santeramo, president of the BTU, said. “Teachers are under attack, public education is under attack, public employees, police, fire fighters, government workers are all under attack. Even our union voice for working families is under attack.”
Last week, Scott signed a bill that placed Florida teachers on merit pay while ending tenure for new hires. Scott signed the new law that also will chip away at teachers’ due process and collective bargaining rights.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a similar bill last year.
Not only will schools feel the affects of the cuts. Child welfare, university funding and environmental protection are among the cuts. On the other hand, Scott proposed a 116 percent increase in his budget. The governor wants to add 91 positions to his personal staff, Nelson reported.