The men and women in black
If you see educators in Hernando, Citrus, Marion and Sumter counties wearing black today, it won't be a coordinated fashion statement. Rather, it's their announced "Day of Mourning" for public education, a protest to the Florida Legislature's deep cuts to school funding.
"These budget cuts will have an awful impact on our children and our public schools," Melissa Pfeiffer, political action chairperson for Citrus County Education Association, said in a news release announcing the event.
School districts across the state are preparing budget reductions in the millions. Pinellas officials are considering employee pay cuts, for instance, while the Lee school district already has begun laying off people. Other ideas circulating include eliminating reading coaches in Leon and changing school schedules to scale back transportation costs in Orange.
At the state level, National Board certified teachers will see their bonuses shrink, and all teachers will see their school supply budget reduced. The Legislature also cut funding for school advisory committees and school recognition. At the same time, though, Pfeiffer points out, the high expectations that teachers must attain remain intact.
"In the best of economic times, Florida seriously underfunds public education when compared to other states," she said. "These cuts threaten the most important investment our state can make: the education of our children."