#RedforEd Teachers Step Up 2020 Political Engagement in Florida

Teachers and supporters march Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, during the Florida Education Association's "Take on Tallahassee" rally at the Old Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
AP Photo/Phil Sears

The #RedforEd teachers’ movement continued to step up its 2020 political engagement with a rally Monday afternoon in Tallahassee, the capital of the battleground state of Florida.

Though it was an official school day for public schools in Florida, a crowd of several thousand teachers and supporters, most wearing the movement’s trademark red t-shirts, rallied to “Take on Tallahassee” where they highlighted their demands for more pay and more school funding to the Florida State Legislature, which returns to session on Tuesday.

Florida is the second battleground state in the first two weeks of 2020 where #RedforEd teachers are engaging politically to impact the outcome of the presidential election, ostensibly under the guise of improving public education.

Donald Trump narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton in Florida in 2016, and the state’s 29 electoral college votes are considered critical for his re-election in 2020.

Last week in Minnesota, “The #RedforEd teachers’ movement confirmed it is a purely political movement designed to help elect Democrats and stop the re-election of President Donald Trump in 2020. The teachers union in the key battleground state of Minnesota announced it will hold a three-day summit beginning on January 31 to train teachers how to harness their “collective power to defeat Trumpism in 2020 and win a public education system in 2021 that can prevent Trumpism for the next generation,” Breitbart News reported.

Breitbart News reported on the national political objectives of the #RedforEd movement in February:

A well-funded and subversive leftist movement of teachers in the United States threatens to tilt the political balance nationwide in the direction of Democrats across the country as Republicans barely hang on in key states that they need to hold for President Donald Trump to win re-election and for Republicans to have a shot at retaking the House and holding onto their Senate majority.

This teachers union effort, called #RedforEd, has its roots in the very same socialism that President Trump vowed in his 2019 State of the Union address to stop, and it began in its current form in early 2018 in a far-flung corner of the country before spreading nationally. Its stated goals–higher teacher pay and better education conditions–are overshadowed by a more malevolent political agenda: a leftist Democrat uprising designed to flip purple or red states to blue, using the might of a significant part of the education system as its lever.

The Florida Education Association (FEA), which describes itself as “the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 140,000 members … affiliated nationally with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA) and the national AFL-CIO,” sponsored Monday’s rally in Tallahassee.

On Monday, the FEA bused “thousands of teachers, parents and public education supporters to Tallahassee for a ‘Take on Tallahassee’ march on the Capitol while a state Senate Education Committee discusses how to boost pay for classroom instructors.” This school bus was filled Monday morning with Tallahassee-bound members of the Highland County Education Association:

In contrast to Education Minnesota’s recent announcements, the FEA did not use the #RedforEd tag in any of its public announcements about the “Take it to Tallahassee” rally.

FEA also attempted to portray the rally as purely non-partisan and has focused its policy demands on one key objective: more funding for public schools:

Florida’s parents, educators and community supporters will carry their message straight to lawmakers’ doorstep, rallying in front of the Old Capitol to demand improved funding for students and schools, fair pay for all education employees, and an end to the misguided policies that have led to the over-testing of students and the loss of local control in our districts.

However, the enthusiastic support for the rally, using the #RedforEd tag, by Social Justice Democrats like Jen Perlman, who is challenging Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23) in the 2020 Democratic primary, belies the attempts by the FEA to downplay the partisan nature of the rally:

Matt Surrency, a registered Democrat and mayor of Hawthorne, Florida, described why he was attending the rally, which he clearly described in this tweet as a #RedforEd event:

And the FEA framed its demands for more money as a battle between good students and teachers and the “shameful” state legislature in which Republicans control both houses. The governor, Ron DeSantis, is also a Republican.

The speakers for the event, according to the Florida Education Association website, included local and state teachers’ union officials and several national figures, such as Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of National Education Association (NEA), Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and president of National Action Network, Jesse Sharkey, president of Chicago Teachers Union, and Michael Mulgrew, president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers.

However, despite attempts by the FEA to portray the “Take it to Tallahassee” as non-partisan, the selection of featured speakers makes it perfectly clear that the underlying message is political opposition to Donald Trump and Republicans in 2020.

Both the NEA’s Eskelen Garcia and AFT’s Weingarten, were early supporters of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

“Legislators can’t ignore this. They are not dealing with a day, they are dealing with a movement,” the NEA’s Eskelen Garcia told the crowd.

“This is a ‘what side are you on’ moment. It’s time to make public schools the schools our students deserve,” the AFT’s Weingarten added.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) cheered on the teachers attending the rally in this tweet:

The sparse use of the #RedforEd tag by the FEA, combined with its immediate focus on state-specific educational funding issues at Monday’s rally in Tallahassee, suggests that leaders of the teachers’ union in at least one state are beginning to believe that the movement’s highly partisan nature may be alienating a significant portion of the voting population.

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