The K.C. Wright Building in downtown Fort Lauderdale will play home to a lot of angry teachers tonight.
Broward Teachers Union communications director John Ristow tells New Times that tonight's protest -- geared toward teacher layoffs and alleged budget mismanagement by the Broward School Board -- could be one of the largest protests in downtown Fort Lauderdale in recent history.
"Their anger is really fueled by the fact that Miami-Dade schools, despite having the same budget as Broward schools, will be laying off no teachers this year," Ristow says. "When you see such a staggering number of teachers sent to the unemployment lines, you see people extremely upset."
Ristow says the budget mismanagement led to the termination of 1,400 teachers last week, with Broward School District officials "promising more layoffs to come."
As a result, the union's national affiliate -- American Federation of Teachers -- is paying the cost of 25 charter buses to haul teachers from around Broward County to tonight's Fort Lauderdale protest, with Ristow's estimate of 2,000 more driving themselves.
The real goal of the protest, Ristow says, is to make sure budgets are prioritized for classroom instruction.
Under the current budget, the calendar of workdays has been cut back for classroom teachers but not for administrators like assistant principals -- who Ristow says are paid throughout the summer while the schools are closed.
Then there's the $11 million spent annually on the school district's three offices -- two of which are located in the same exact location near Sawgrass Mills Mall -- that are just the top of the union's budget concerns.
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