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Keys teachers protest over public school funds diverted to charter and private schools

Teachers and their supporters stand outside of Plantation Key School in the Florida Keys Monday, March 4, 2018, to protest plans to increase public funding of private and charter schools.
Teachers and their supporters stand outside of Plantation Key School in the Florida Keys Monday, March 4, 2018, to protest plans to increase public funding of private and charter schools.

Monroe County teachers stood outside their schools Monday morning to protest plans by the governor and Republicans in the state Legislature to divert more money from public schools to private and charter schools.

“We need the public to understand that funding is being taken away from our schools to fund private and charter schools. As a public school teacher, you should be upset about this,” Wendi Sullivan, who teaches fourth grade at Key Largo School, wrote in a “call to action” email to teachers late last month.

Charter schools are taxpayer-funded but run by private companies. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed budget is full of incentives aimed at the expansion of charter schools in the state.

DeSantis and Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee also want to expand the flow of public money to charter and private schools this session. His budget calls for a $422 million increase in funding toward a teachers’ bonus program, but the educators protesting Monday favor an increase in base pay instead.

The starting salary for a Florida Keys public school teacher is $47,800, according to a school district salary schedule.

The protests, one in the morning before school began and another in the afternoon, were planned to take place on the eve of opening day of the state legislative session Tuesday.

School protest Lower Keys.jpg
Monroe County teachers in the Lower Keys protest state plans to increase public spending on charter and private schools. Holly Hummell-Gorman

“We will be holding up signs, making some noise and want to really let the public know what the issues are,” Susan Bazin, Key Largo Middle School band director, wrote in an email last week announcing the protests.

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.


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