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Florida teachers union vice president challenges for top spot, calls for end to status quo

Fed Ingram calls for more activism as unions around the nation take the lead.
Florida Education Association vice president Fed Ingram [Facebook]
Florida Education Association vice president Fed Ingram [Facebook]
Published May 21, 2018
Updated May 21, 2018

Fed Ingram has his eye set on the top job in Florida's statewide teacher union.

Ingram, vice president of the Florida Education Association for the past three years, has launched a bid to oust president Joanne McCall at a time when teacher union activism around the nation is mounting and calls for Florida to follow suit are on the rise.

McCall and local union officials have advocated against walkouts in the Sunshine State, saying the consequences are too severe.

In a letter to FEA leaders, distributed last week, Ingram — a former United Teachers of Dade president — said business as usual cannot go on. He aims to tap into the energy generated as many teachers came together 50 years after teachers went on strike, and who feel threatened by new certification rules imposed by an Republican-led Legislature.

"The unprecedented attack on our members from the passage of HB 7069 and HB 7055 in two consecutive years should cause us all to reevaluate and rethink our strategy, tactics and our goals," Ingram wrote. "We are in the fight of our lives. Make no mistake about it. Our anti-union opponents are not coming after us because of who we are; they are coming after us because of who we can become."

The House Majority Office continued its broadside against the FEA this past week, posting a video accusing the "union bosses" of perpetuating a "myth" about education funding. The video, which highlights a $101.50 per-student spending increase while downplaying that the bulk of the funding is not available for general operations, quickly came under fire from several teachers on social media.

[Florida House Majority vide0 | YouTube]
[Florida House Majority video | YouTube]

The FEA has used lawsuits in the past to challenge legislative action, such as the expansion of tax credit scholarships and the distribution of Best and Brightest bonuses. It has found little success in its efforts.

The union also has stepped up its focus on influencing elections.

Ingram has called for more local action, holding government leaders accountable and getting more educators involved. The presidents of the Volusia and St. Johns teacher unions have joined his ticket for the top FEA positions.

"What kind of union do you want?" Ingram wrote in his letter. "If you believe, as we do, that it's time for a vision, a new strategy and tactics in order to survive and thrive, then focus, take a deep breath and go for it. Join us."

The move has at least one political consultant wondering if there's an insurrection afoot.

McCall, who is seeking a second term, said she viewed Ingram's bid as an "internal matter." She said her leadership team remains intact otherwise, and it plans to run for reelection on its track record.

"I wish Fed well," McCall said.