South Florida teachers hold rally at Tropical Park ahead of Tallahassee march

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Hundreds of South Florida schoolteachers came together in Southwest Miami-Dade as they prepared to join thousands of colleagues from across the state at a march in Tallahassee.

Teachers from Miami-Dade Public Schools and community leaders took the stage at Tropical Park, Sunday night, before hitting the road to the state capital for Monday’s march.

“How many of you are getting on that bus tonight?” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., to cheers from the crowd.

The event was organized by United Teachers of Dade.

“Say, ‘I’m here!”‘ said Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade, after taking the stage.

“I’m here!” attendees responded.

Education advocates came out in large numbers for the big kickoff before heading out to Tallahassee.

Monday marks the beginning of Florida’s 2020 legislative session, and teachers are pushing state lawmakers to increase funding for public schools.

“It’s for education justice,” said Hernandez-Mats. “You know, we’re tired of being underfunded. We’re tired of the overtesting our children.”

Spirits were high at the event, but despite the dancing and festive atmosphere, participants said they want lawmakers to know they’re serious about school funding.

Florida is the fourth state in the nation for K-12 achievement, but advocates argue schools in the state rank among the lowest in the nation for funding.

“Despite all of these achievements, we see that our state doesn’t fund public education as it should,” said Hernandez-Mats. “We are 46th in the nation in education funding, and our children deserve better.”

Moreover, the Sunshine State’s teachers are some of the lowest paid in the country.

“We have a teacher shortage nationally, but also locally, and if we don’t pay our teachers what they deserve, unfortunately, they will have to go to other communities,” said Lubby Navarro, Miami-Dade Public School Board member from District 7.

City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez expressed his support for the educators.

“This is a bipartisan issue. It’s not about Republican or Democrat. This is about doing what’s right for the children of our community,” he said. “There’s no better investment in a $90 billion budget than paying your teachers adequately.”

After the rally, participants began boarding buses that will take them to Tallahassee, where they will be joining thousands of other teachers striving to ensure education is a priority for state lawmakers.

Those buses left at around 10 p.m.

These teachers will be on the road all night, but they said it’s worth it to make their voices heard.

The rally in Tallahassee is scheduled to kick off Monday at 2 p.m.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.