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Protesters Rally For Florida Public School Funding

A group of parents and teachers rallied at U.S. 98 exit
Kathleen Oropeza
Parents and teachers protest allocation of public school funding outside of Florida Education Meeting

On Wednesday, a group of concerned parents and teachers rallied for public school funding allocation prior to a Florida Board Education Meeting in Polk County.

According to the group, they're motivated by Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s comment at a school meeting earlier this year that Duval County Public Schools could be met with a state takeover of its “failing schools.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Corcoran announced in May his plan to incorporate state initiatives to help schools with low grades.

“What do you do when you have a district that has 21 schools in D or F and on the verge of constant turnaround? In turnaround, out of turnaround," he said. "You’re talking about generations of kids. At what point do you say, ‘Maybe we should put them in receivership, maybe we should have legislation that allows us to go over there and take over.’”

The group objects to this and claims Corcoran is more motivated with helping charter schools. 

In a press release, they said, “(Corcoran is) dedicated to expanding corporate charters and unaccountable private school ‘choice’ instead of making public schools, students and investment in teachers and staff their top priority.”

“So much of what’s happening with funding is being diverted away from our traditional public schools into the for-profit and private sector,” said Jennifer Sabin, a Polk County parent and public education advocate. “And there’s no accountability for that money once it leaves the state’s hands.”

Some other concerns the group hopes the state addresses include: reducing maximum allowed testing hours, having parental control over what happens to student data, a pay increase for faculity , limiting Corcoran’s power and more local control of the schools.

“It seems like there’s a small group of people who have taken control of public education in Tallahassee and aren’t listening to what people like me, a parent, average people, want from our public education,” said Sabin.

“I really think that local control is very important…because our local school districts know the students better than anybody else, and they know the needs of the community better than anyone else.”

Prior to the meeting, the group rallied outside the U.S. 98 entrance to Polk State College where the Board of Education meeting was being held. Some participants also spoke during the meeting to the board directly.

“We had a lot of positive feedback,” Sabin said. “People driving by and waving, honking and thumbs up to show support for public education and teachers.”

"Our hope is our presence will send a message to this board that the public is watching.” said Stephanie Yocum, President of the Polk Education Association. “We see the inequities in the rules between our traditional public schools and the voucher and charter private schools and we want a level playing field."

Adam Bakst is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for summer 2019.
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