Sending the Wrong Message: Parents Protest Budget Cuts

A local grassroots collection of parents displayed concern over Florida legislature’s plan to cut education funding this morning with a march over the Granada Bridge in Ormond Beach.

A larger march is planned between 4 and 6 p.m. today, according to a report published in the Daytona Beach News Journal by staff writer Audrey Parente.

“The point is to let legislators know there is unhappiness at the local level with the idea of cutting educational funding,” said Julia Truilo of Ormond Beach.

The local mom was among a small group of bridge marchers this morning, but said the crowd after school is expected to be larger.

“It’s a parent-generated protest,” Truilo said. “My purpose is to let folks know education funding is important.

“There’s one rule when organizing a protest,” said Joe LaMountain of Sparklight Communications, “you’ve got to deliver a crowd.  If you don’t, you wind up looking weak to the politicians you’re trying to influence.”

The parents organized in a online blog at PreserveEducation.blogspot.com listing email contacts for key legislators and the Volusia County School Board. The blog site also includes suggested slogans forbridge-walkers to include on homemade signs.

“Parents are doing right by involved,” LaMountain continued.  “But a successful protest needs more than just a blog.  You need dozens of personal meetings, hundreds of phone calls and thousands of flyers for it to work.”

“From what I understand, tomorrow is when the House and Senate sit down across the table from each other and agree on what the final budget will be,” said Maria Hayworth, one of the organizers. “We want to make sure they remember to preserve the education budget to the best of their ability.”

An email to The News-Journal contained comments from other parents.

“Hopefully, our emails and walk will be seen and understood,” said Jennifer Campanella, a mother of two school-aged children. “We know our state is in financial crisis mode and the education budget is going to be cut. We just want our legislators to cut as little off the top as possible.”

And Sandy Upchurch, mediation counsel with Upchurch Watson White and Max Mediation Group, also a mother of two, said: “Education is the key to the future success of our state. If our kids don’t receive the level of education they need, our state will begin to crumble from the inside out.

“The proposed cuts won’t affect just one group of students – they will impact all of Florida’s children,” Upchurch said.

One dad, Brad Giles, owner of Giles Electric, also has children in Volusia County schools.

“If we don’t provide adequate funding for education now, how can we expect to have a well-prepared workforce down the road?” he said.

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