Newschannel 7’s Kristy Wolski left Panama City at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday on a bus loaded with teachers, support staff and students from Bay and Gulf counties. Their packed schedule included the rally on the capitol steps and meetings with local legislators to get answers on the one cent sales tax for education.
Pennies piled in from all over the state. 2.6 million of them: representing each child in Florida's public school system. Now educators must garner support for the tax from lawmakers.
"I support it. I actually do, which isn't real popular all over this place. The reason I support it is for the very reason that it does make it more equitable. Everyone shares with one cent," said Rep. Marti Coley, (R) Marianna.
But Representative Coley says she's not sure others agree.
"I don't know that that will pass at the end of the day, but I think we're looking at every way," said Coley.
Senator Don Gaetz says he's working on his own plan.
"I'm working with some other senators and leadership in Senate, as well as the House to try to craft some sort of a proposal that would give the people of Florida the opportinity to decide if they would like to add a penny sales tax," said Sen. Don Gaetz, (R) Niceville.
Representative Jimmy Patronis spoke with the group, but would not say whether he'd support a penny sales tax.
“We represent those children that do not have a vote and we just want to know that our legislators are going to support those little people," said one Bay Co. educator to Rep. Patronis.
"You've got our most precious investment. There's no 2 ways about it. The better a job you do, the less our corrections facilities have to deal with so, hey, I get it. I get it," replied Rep. Jimmy Patronis, (R) Panama City.
The educators hope lawmakers will hear their pleas.
"The bottom line is as we tell our kids all the time actions speak louder than words. So as they were listening to what we were saying they listened intently which is what we want our kids to do al lthe time in the classrooms. But we have to see the results and they're going to have to do something on the legislative floor to show us that they really do support public education," said Lora McCalister-Cruel, Mosley High Teacher.
The local educators say they will continue calling and writing our legislators throughout the rest of the session. They just hope it makes a difference.