2/24/08

First statewide teachers strike remembered

This month marks the 40th anniversary of a pivotal event in Florida history. In February 1968, Florida teachers and other education workers belonging to the Florida Education Association staged the nation's first statewide teachers' strike and focused the state's attention on public education.

The cause of the strike was the chronic under-funding of the state's educational system at a time when attendance was rising sharply. The strike lasted from a few days in some school districts to several weeks in others.

Although a special session of the Legislature approved more school funding, the budget increases didn't solve the problem.

Forty years later, Florida still under-funds education, and our state resides near the bottom when compared with all the other states on funding.

Teacher salaries still lag nearly $6,000 below the national average, and the situation is equally dire for all the other vital positions in our public schools, like bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other Floridians who help our public schools run smoothly for our children.

The cost of living in Florida, which once made most of the state affordable, has risen rapidly over the past few years, making it difficult for those who teach and care for our children to raise their own families.

Forty years ago, public school employees took a courageous stand to point out the problem.

They got some attention and short-term relief, but Florida's political leaders continue to ignore the needs of our public schools.

We hear constantly about Florida becoming competitive in the 21st-century global economy, yet our political leaders continue to refuse to make significant investments in our future, represented by the children of Florida and those who teach them, and ensure their safety and well-being in our public schools.

- C. HIGGINBOTTHAM, educator, Orange Park, FL

(jacksonville.com)

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