Hundreds protest Gov. Scott’s proposed cuts to education
Clearwater, Florida – Hundreds of people lined the roadway at the corner of McMullen Booth Road and State Road 580 in Clearwater Tuesday afternoon for a rally that lasted two hours.
They took part in one of 31 “Awake the State” rallies that were held across Florida to protest Governor Rick Scott’s proposed budget cuts to education. Governor Scott wants to slash 3.3 billion dollars from education.
Photos: Rally in Clearwater
Click here to see a map of where all the rallies were held.
The legislative session started in Tallahassee Tuesday and teachers, staff, parents and union members taking part in the rallies say they wanted to send a message to Governor Scott.
Teachers like Christine Lewis and Janice Blaine say they haven’t received a raise in years and say many of them spend hundreds of dollars each year out of their own pockets to pay for school supplies and photocopies for their students.
Blaine said, “I’ve already paid out over $600 out of my own pocket for just the past year. It will only get worse with the cuts that we’re looking at. Lewis added, “We haven’t had a raise since 2007.”
Lewis has been an educator for 12 years and teaches at Oldsmar Elementary school. Blaine has been an educator for 30 years and currently teaches at Eisenhower Elementary school.
Governor Scott said during his State of the State address Tuesday night, “Florida educators will face challenges in managing limited resources but our committment to positive change must not waiver.”
He proposes a better way to boost their pay. It’s something they’ve heard before – tying students performance to teachers pay. Scott said, “We must test our students and we must evaluate our educators.”
Many teachers say it’s a slap in the face to also propose a cut in their pension benefits. Scott has proposed that teachers pay 5% of their pension costs. It’s a move that’s expected to save 2.8 billion dollars over two years and it would affect all state workers not just teachers.
Governor Scott would also like to increase the amount of money spent on private-school vouchers by 250 million dollars in 2012. Blaine says “It seems like Governor Scott does not want public education. He seems to want to privatize education and to me the mark of a great democracy is public education where every child has the right to a free education.”
There was a small counter protest at the rally too. Members of the Tea Party like John Treskovich say they support the Governor’s budget cuts. He and others gathered on a corner across the street from the main demonstration.
Treskovich says, “Well we’ve been throwing money at education for 20 to 30 years now and throwing money at education doesn’t neccesarily educate our children.”
He added, “They load up the beauracracy – they build palaces for schools but the bottom line is are our kids getting better educated? I don’t think they are.”
Treskovich also commented on the unions. “We just feel the unions have too much power in this country and we’re here to counter it.”
Union members attended the rallies too. They’re concerned about legislation that would change the way they operate – weaking collective bargaining which is a constitutional right in Florida. Dan Wagner, a union member, said “I think that’s all most Americans want is a decent wage you know for an 8 hour work day and that’s what unions stand for.”
Wagner added, “Some of the benefits we enjoy today such as an 8 hour work day, a 40 hour work week, vacation time, workers comp, unemployment – those were all things that were fought for by our predecessors back in the day.”
Bradnt Robinson, a teacher, added “We feel like we’re all in this economic mess together…We feel like teachers and firefighters and police officers are being scapegoated for something that really is in all of our best interests to protect public workers.”