Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teachers Plan Rally to 'Awake the State'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teachers Plan Rally to 'Awake the State'

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

Clay County teachers will stage a rally Tuesday to protest proposed cuts in state education funding, which played a role in the School Board's recent rejection of a tentative teacher contract.

The rally is part of a statewide effort called "Awake the State," designed to pressure the legislature to adequately fund public education, as the state Constitution requires.

"No Floridian can afford more budget cuts," said Lea Rhoden, secretary of the Clay County Education Association, who distributed a flier urging a "big turnout" at the event. "It's time to take a stand and come together! We must do our part in Clay County to 'Awake the State' by urging our state legislators to reject budget cuts and invest in Floridians again."

The rally is 4 to 6 p.m. in the Kmart parking lot, at the corner of Blanding Boulevard and Kingsley Avenue, a heavily traveled intersection across from Orange Park High School.

The rally comes on the heels of the School Board's Feb. 17 rejection of a tentative 2010-11 teacher contract proposed by its staff and recommended by Superintendent Ben Wortham. The proposed contract included $1.7 million in increased salary and benefits; a majority of the board members said they were concerned about declining revenues and expected state education funding cuts.

Meanwhile, a Clay resident who supports the teachers' cause, Scott W. Wenzel of Middleburg, told Clay Sun that he sent School Board members and legislators a missive decrying any influence the Peoples Tea Party may have had on the board's decision. The Peoples Tea Party publicly said it objected to the contract, which party members said was too expensive.

"I refuse to let a group under any name get away with hurting people," he said.

The board's Feb. 17 4-1 contract vote was "public disgrace to democracy," Wenzel said. …

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