State Archives of Florida: Series S303, Box 10, Folder 17
Niehaus voices solidarity with FEA-led strike and describes conditions at schools without certified teachers. "We need legislation that will do the job permanently and we need it NOW!"
February 28, 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.