SB6 protesters fill downtown Bradenton streets

Hundreds of protestors filled corners along Manatee Avenue West in downtown Wednesday afternoon to rally against the controversial Senate Bill 6 — better known as the “teacher tenure" bill.

The rally began at around 4:30 p.m. At about 6 p.m., the numbers began to dissipate.

Protesters, who stood along sidewalks from Ninth to 15th streets west, wore red and held signs that read "Veto SB 6" and "Tyranny in Tallahassee."

Superintendent Tim McGonegal and several school board members, including board chairwoman Jane Pfeilsticker, were among those who attended.

"We're angry," said Pat Barber, president of the Manatee County Education Association, the local teachers union, who sponsored the rally.

Representatives from Fund Education Now, an Orlando-based advocacy group concerned about cuts in education funding, were also on hand for support.

"It's time for the politicians in Tallahassee to listen to the professionals that work in the classroom," Barber said.

Protesters like many across the state are calling on Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the bill, which proposes the most dramatic overhaul of Florida public schools in years, linking teacher pay to student performance -- not on years of experience or education level.

He has until Friday to do so.

Some passing motorists honked as they passed by; and ralliers shouted in response. At one point, a school bus drove along and students inside banged on the windows in support. Again, the ralliers cheered.

"This is legislative lunacy," said David Barcena, a teacher for 21 years who is currently at Braden River Middle.

Next to him stood Ed Patten, a retired school counselor from New York state.

Patten, who now lives in Manatee, said he came to support the teachers in the county.

"It's a lose-lose for the teachers and the district," he said. "Clearly a step backward in education."

Read more in Thursday's edition of the Bradenton Herald.

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