Hundreds of teachers from Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast joined thousands of their counterparts from around the state Monday in Tallahassee.
On the first day of the new session of the state legislature, teachers gathered for a rally called “Take on Tallahassee,” demanding change from state leaders.
The teachers and their supporters met at the Leon County Civic Center, then marched through the streets of Tallahassee, winding up at the Historic State Capital building.
Among the throng was Rebecca Petrie, vice president of the St. Lucie County Classroom Teachers Association. CBS12 News reached Petrie in Tallahassee via Face Time.
“I’m away from the crowd right now, but behind me every time the speakers get to their major points, the crowd erupts,” said Petrie. “And it’s such an emotional and invigorating experience to be a part of.”
For Petrie, the day began early, before dawn, as she and others boarded buses in St. Lucie County, bound for Tallahassee.
“We’re going to be joining thousands of our colleagues to show our legislators that we are not going to be quiet during this legislative session,” said Petrie before departing.
“They need to take us seriously,” said Petrie. “They need to hear what we have to say, to make some changes to our education system.”
And that was the message as the afternoon went on.
Boosting teacher pay is an important part of the change teachers are seeking.
Back in October, Governor Ron DeSantis announced his plan to increase starting teachers’ salaries by $10,000.
“Which sounds really good, but it doesn’t take into account veteran teachers, who have been in the trenches for a lot longer, and want to be raised up in their salary as well,” said Petrie.
Both Petrie and Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association president Justin Katz said they felt Monday’s turnout exceeded the crowd at the last large teachers' demonstration in Tallahassee a few years back.
Most of the teachers planned to return home the same night, making for a very long day.
In spite of that, Petrie said she’s incredibly glad she made the trip.