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Monday, March 23, 2009

About 6,000 travel to Orlando to oppose budget cuts

ORLANDO - About 6,000 teachers, support personnel, administrators and public school supporters stood together Saturday to share ideas about the importance of education with a statewide "Make Our Schools A Priority!" rally at the University of Central Florida.

Whether their intended audience, the Legislature, heard the message remains to be seen. But organizers from the Florida Education Association and attendees said they were pleased by the turnout and tone of the event in the UCF Arena.

At issue are potential budget cuts to public education in wake of an economic crisis that has Florida facing a shortfall approaching $6 billion in general revenue. These cuts would be on top of $3.9 billion in reductions that have occurred the past two academic years.

"I really wish we didn't have to be meeting here (Saturday)," FEA president Andy Ford said. "I wish we didn't have to state something so simple: Make our schools a priority. If we have massive layoffs, that will continue the downward spiral in our economy. Let's send a message to Mr. Politician: Make our schools a priority."

The rhetoric played well to this crowd, which included about 250 who traveled from Lee County, 150 on three charter buses and another 100 on their own.

"I'm here to bring a voice to a better solution," said Drew Coffman, a fourth-grade teacher at Veterans Park Academy for the Arts in Lehigh Acres. "We need to find ways to build revenue instead of making cuts. There's got to be a better way." read more...

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