By Fedrick Ingram
President, Florida Education Association
I’m proud to lead an organization whose mission is to protect one of society’s greatest assets; the public schools. As the President of the Florida Education Association, I’m focused on preserving the asset and staying on the path to positive change. Our team works hard to improve our schools and that includes a strong commitment to providing every child with a quality education. And believe me, that is a daily fight in everyone of our 67 counties.
People single me out as the first African American President of FEA but that distinction is more than a benchmark. It gives me a unique perspective and fuels my passion for education because of the critical role it continues to play in the lives of African Americans and all people of color. An education is the gateway to opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach for minority people in particular. Our history is replete with the efforts to prevent the education of African Americans, because knowledge is a powerful weapon against all barriers and it can never be taken away. That empowerment plays out in our classrooms giving all of our children a shot at the American dream. But there are efforts to reverse the gains we’ve made. I have to tell you; they are alarming and disturbing. These obstructions to a quality education are reemerging in plain sight.
I think about our students and teachers every time I walk into the capitol to face politicians bent on privatizing a system that teaches well over 2.7 million children a year. We forget that our doors are open to all Florida children regardless of disability, race or class. We do not discriminate. We need every dime to prepare our students to compete in an evolving marketplace. Privatization is getting in the way of that progress because it takes some of us, but not all of us.
Privatizing public schools has been a 20-year strategy where billions of our tax dollars are siphoned from the classrooms and deposited in private school bank accounts. They are chipping away at the future and the promise of opportunity for all. But the public schools are not for profit. And, public schools do not pick and choose which students are to be educated. The private unregulated schools enroll students who often want to return to the public-school system because of bad experiences. Describing vouchers as scholarship opportunities does not disguise the fact that they discriminate, segregate and provide an exit strategy for White students at the expense of taxpayers.
As stakeholders, education will have a big influence on what the future holds for our families. We are looking for partners in this fight for public schools and we need your help.