Teachers union launches campaign to fully fund public schools

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers' union, has launched a new campaign urging lawmakers to properly fund traditional public schools. 

The move comes in response to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Senate’s plan to expanded vouchers for private schools.

"State funding for public school students ranks near the bottom,” FEA’s new ad for its Fund Our Future campaign begins.

The six-figure television ad buy warns the state could face a teacher shortage of 10,200 by next year if lawmakers fail to properly fund traditional public schools.

The campaign comes in response to DeSantis’ focus on pushing school choice.

“Particularly for low-income families,” said DeSantis. "You know, I would like them to be able to have the same opportunities that folks who are wealthier have.”

To the dismay of FEA, DeSantis has asked lawmakers to allocate tax dollars to help clear a waiting list for a private school scholarship program, known as the Tax Credit Scholarship.

“If they continue to take money out of the public schools track then they continue to hurt kids,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. "They continue to hurt classrooms.”

Despite an estimated $100 million price tag, the governor pushed back when asked if it greatly expands vouchers.

“I would not term it as saying, 'greatly expand.' I mean, we're talking about 14,000 kids on a waitlist,” said DeSantis.

Currently, 100,000 students receive the scholarship.

A similar proposal to clear the waitlist will be included in the Senate’s Education Package, but Senate President Bill Galvano says the legislation will be balanced.

“[A bill] That empowers families, but at the same time does not do so in spite of or in lieu of traditional public education,” said Galvano.

The Senate is expected to unveil its Education Package in its entirety sometime this week.

FEA’s ad campaign will run until March 11 in Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee, which means there’s a good chance lawmakers will see it during the first week of session.