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Teacher protests try to call international attention to plight of education in Florida

Written by on Friday, March 1, 2024

And New College figures prominently.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: Mar. 1, 2024

Host: A coalition of organizations representing teachers, students and activists are banding together for a series of actions to support freedom of education in Florida. It begins with an online forum this Tuesday and ends with a march and rally in Miami the following weekend that coincides with an international conference titled “The Power of Protest”. The eyes of teachers from all over the world will be, among others, on the state takeover of New College. Our news team has more.

Johannes Werner: On March 10-14, the Comparative & International Education Society – CIES – will host a conference in Miami titled “The Power of Protest”. That annual event usually attracts hundreds of teachers and teachers’ union organizers from around the globe. While that academic event unfolds in the meeting rooms of the Hyatt Regency Hotel beginning next weekend, an actual protest will play out in the streets of downtown nearby.

It will begin on Sunday, March 10, 1:30 with a “March for Justice with Florida Educators” from the Miami Circle on Brickell Avenue to the Torch of Friendship at the Bayfront Park near the hotel. A rally with Florida teachers in the park is scheduled to follow. The organizers suggest wearing red, and bringing banned books to donate to Florida students.

Teachers’ unions are the heavyweights in the protest. Represented are the American Federation of Teachers, United Faculty of Florida, and the United Teachers of Dade – the organizers’ main local allies. Last but not least, there will be David Edwards, the secretary general of Education International, which represents millions of teachers from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Also represented are Florida Rising, Safe Schools Southern Florida, and the American Sociological Association. Speakers include Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Karla Hernandez-Mats of the Dade teachers’ union and former running mate of Charlie Crist for governor; and Dwight Bullard of Florida Rising.

Rebecca Tarlau is one of the organizers of the protest, and an associate professor of education at Stanford University. She underlines that the CIES is not organizing nor endorsing the protests.


Rebecca Tarlau: I just want to be really clear: The Comparative & International Education Society is not sponsoring this event. They’re not organizing it. They have nothing to do with it. It’s just members of the Society that are, as individuals. We’re organizing this event in partnership with the United Teachers of Dade, is our main partner on the ground. But we have we’re gonna have people from various other community labor organizations that are going to be speaking at the rally.

JW: She says the aim is to put the eyes of the world on the challenges educators are facing in Florida.

RT: The folks that are going to be there are going to be a combination of local folks from Florida — students and faculty and teachers from Florida. But because of this conference that’s happening simultaneously, there’s going to be a lot of international folks. So we’re kind of bringing them to the lot of the process. For example, there’s going to be representatives of teacher unions and faculty from countries throughout Latin America. The president of Brazil’s national confederation of education workers … is going to be there. The General Secretary of Education International, which is the international kind of teacher union organization that represents millions and millions around the world. The whole point here is that we want to bring together scholars of education from around the world, to learn about what’s happened in Florida and to publicly say that this is not okay.

JW: The organizers of the event describe the intent as “linking struggles” against what they describe as “reactionary movements in education”.

Organizer Rebecca Tarlau:

RT: We’re education scholars, and we study educational systems internationally, around the world. And when we found out that our conference was going to be in Miami, a lot, a group of us in that society, decided that we had to learn more about the Florida context, because we’re increasingly concerned. So specifically, when we say linking things, we think about the fact that Florida has passed anti LGBTQ laws. So LGBTQ students feel unsafe. They pass laws that reduce teachers’ ability to talk about race, racism, oppression, sexual orientation, etc. We see the attacks on United Teachers of Dade, and teachers’ right to freedom to have a union. So we see all those things as connected, in terms of undermining what was supposed to be a quality education

JW: In the run-up of the in-person conference and protest, there will be an online forum this Tuesday, March 5 about the restrictions on K-12 and higher-education teaching the DeSantis administration has imposed on public schools. New College features prominently in that event. Scheduled speakers include Libby Harrity, a former New College student who was sued by a DeSantis-appointed board member after a confrontation; she was permanently banned from the campus. Also speaking will be Dr. Sarah Hernandez, a sociology teacher who was a plaintiff in an academic freedom lawsuit against New College.

There’s a bit.ly to register for the Zoom event this Tuesday, March 5 at 7 pm. Go to bit.ly/linking-struggles. Also look for ride opportunities to Miami organized by local groups like NCF Freedom.

This has been Johannes Werner, reporting for WSLR News.

WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm.