Statement by Dr. Phil Constans, Jr.
Florida Education Association
February 19, 1968
Contact: Chuck Cook
For Immediate Release
The teachers of Florida turned out en masse this morning to show their resolve to make this state adequately finance education, despite frantic threats of reprisal and attempts to intimidate teachers begun over the weekend by some county superintendents and school boards.
More than 35,000 teachers were reported attending regional meetings around the state as of 9:30 a.m. At least two large urban areas still have not reported attendance totals because of traffic jams and bad weather. These should be calling in within the hour.
It would appear at this time that the teachers of Florida have successfully made their point. We regret having to close schools, but it proved to be the only course left to the profession after the politicians of this state failed to meet their responsibilities to the children.
All weekend long we received calls from teachers regarding attempts to threaten or intimidate them by school officials. Despite this reprehensible maneuver, the teachers of Florida have made their decision:
In Escambia County, more than 1,400 teachers have packed their meeting area and have already submitted resignations to the school board.
Palm Beach County reports 1,600 teachers - with more still arriving.
Over 6,000 in Dade County are sitting in a cold, driving rain with block long traffic jams of more teachers still coming.
Orange - Seminole County reports more than 1,000 teachers are shivering in an unheated rodeo arena - drafting a reply to Gov. Kirk's open letter to teachers last week.
Among other areas - Leon has nearly 400 teachers at the Varsity Theatre, some 600 are attending the State Theatre in Gainesville, and we still have not received reports from Duval or Sarasota.
State Archives of Florida: Collection M86-11, Box 48, Folder 2
This press release discusses the first day of the 35,000-teacher walkout in Florida on February 19, 1968, and provides information about conditions in Escambia, Palm Beach and Orange counties on first day of the strike.
February 19, 1968
In February 1968 the state teachers' union, the Florida Education Association (FEA), staged the first statewide teachers strike in the country when half of the state's teacher workforce went on strike for better wages and increased education funds. The strike occurred in response to Governor Claude Kirk's refusal to meet FEA demands on salary and school budget increases during the 1967 legislative session. Kirk's subsequent budget line item veto of a $150 million education appropriation spurred the FEA into action. Backed by the National Education Association, the FEA began organizing that summer to focus more attention on education. Their efforts intensified throughout the fall of 1967. In January 1968 the governor called a special session of the legislature to address the education crisis. The Senate drafted a bill that met FEA demands, but the House scaled down the proposal and a joint committee passed a bill considered unacceptable to teachers. In response, 35,000 Florida public school teachers and administrators walked out of their classrooms beginning on February 19, 1968. Most of the schools remained open, however, and Florida Commissioner of Education Floyd T. Christian used substitute teachers to staff the schools. On March 8 the FEA and the State Board of Education came to agreement, which included $10.2 million in education spending. The FEA ended the strike the next day and teachers returned to work, though some had to negotiate reinstatement with their districts. No striking language was added to the Florida constitution in 1968.