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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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FL Teachers Get Grassroots Support 

ORLANDO, FL - Florida teachers have organized hundreds of rallies and demonstrations to support teachers, public workers and students they claim are under attack by state lawmakers.

The Florida Legislature cut budgets, increased class sizes and slashed salaries in an effort to bring a deficit in check - but the Florida Education Association says the damage to the state's public education is horrific. Proponents of the cuts say educators are trying to save a system that is overfunded and outdated, but Stephanie Porta, who heads the new grassroots group Awake The State in Orlando, says the public needs to know the truth.

"We think it's important for folks to know what the legislators did, and so a lot of this is going to be basic education: Tthis person voted for this, and this, and this - and this is how you're going to be affected by it."

Awake The State claims the recent legislative session went after a lot of programs that support the middle class, from public worker pensions to medical care for the disabled and elderly.

Porta says voters need to know who really got the short end of the vote under the Capitol dome this session.

"At this point, they have to face their voters and their constituents, and we have a long hot summer awaiting us."

Few teachers are going to want to teach in Florida, which ranks near the bottom of the national pay scale, Porta says. Students will suffer in the short term, she says, and in the long term Florida's efforts to revitalize the job market could be affected.

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