STUART, Fla. — The battle over teacher pay, testing and other education-related issues with Tallahassee took to the streets of Stuart Wednesday with a grassroots effort to get state legislators’ attention.
Royal Palm Beach High School teacher Cheyne Seleski commutes an hour a day. He’s attracted to the lower cost of living in Port St. Lucie and the higher wages in Palm Beach County.
“My sign kind of explains it all,” he says holding it up. “It says Texas is 26th in teacher pay. A state with low taxes. I know Florida isn’t big on taxes either, but there’s no reason why we should be 46th.”
Randy Erickson has a granddaughter in first grade in a Florida public school.
“I came out here to support the teachers and the students to get more funding so that our education can be expanded,” he said.
Melissa Gershman has two jobs.
“I’m a teacher and a realtor, I work at Indiantown middle school,” she said.
She’s marching too, among the 250 people or so who did.
“It is them,” she said pointing two young students who also marched, “it is really all about them. But how many of us (teachers) are going to stay? That’s the question.”
It’s a three-month-old grassroots effort, a non-partisan Facebook group called "Reconstruct-ED: A Message for Governor Ron DeSantis." It’s up to more than 8,000 members across the state.
They say there’s too much testing, teachers are paid too little, they don’t want what’s known as train bills-an all or nothing approach to legislating, local control and leaders who listen.
“What we have right now is children that we can’t serve as teachers because the schools are being handcuffed,” said Tina McSoley, the group’s founder. She is also a former Martin County school board member and teacher.
They’re starting now to try to gain enough momentum to impact Florida’s legislative session in early 2020.
There was a sister march held in Collier County on Wednesday.