Teachers undervalued through low pay, overemphasis on testing
Education is the primary investment we make in our children to ensure they have the best and brightest future possible, whether that is as an individual family or as a community of citizens. For the last two dozen years, the Florida Legislature has abdicated its duty to broadly invest in public education, instead putting politics and profit over people.
Despite having a $1 trillion economy that is the fourth largest in the U.S. and ranks 17th in the world, our legislators value our children and educators so little that Florida now ranks 45th in education spending, 48th in average teacher pay, and is dead last when we adjust for inflation since the end of the Great Recession.
The most common complaint from Tallahassee is the “money mismanagement myth,” effectively stating that plenty of money has been given to school districts and that it is local school boards who are to blame. Yet the numbers since the end of the recession do not warrant such an assertion.
A decade ago, Florida’s budget was $66.5 billion; this year it was just shy $91 billion, which is an increase of nearly 40%. In that same time, however, public education spending increased from $21.1 billion to $26 billion, only a 23% increase. In fact, the investment in our children was so low that as a portion of the entire state budget, it actually decreased from 32% to 28%.
The Florida Legislature may get an A+ for costs and efficiency, but it has earned an F- when it comes the steep price paid by our humanity.
All across the state, students are suffering from the lack of resources. As Florida rushed headlong into the accountability craze of grading educators and schools, the number of assessments students must endure has exploded.
Children are constantly “progress monitored” to ensure they will earn a particular score, with many developing anxiety and experiencing frequent spikes of traumatic
HOME DELIVERY RATES stress when tests are administered. Parents often feel helpless when their son vomits the morning of the FSA, or their daughter develops a disorder that has her plucking her eyelashes out the entirety of her fourth-grade year.
Has the last decade of all this testing shown any gains? If the 2019 NAEP report is any indication, the answer is an unequivocal no; scores have largely remained flat and declined in some cases.
Beyond the physical and mental abuse directly inflicted on Florida’s children, though, there is a secondary toll paid by the children of Florida’s educators. With funding so low that it cannot keep up with rising costs — especially health-care premiums and deductibles — no school district has been able to provide meaningful raises, economically leaving behind the largest workforce in virtually every county throughout the Sunshine State.
Rather than support small businesses that are the engine of any economy at the local level, many educators must instead work two and three jobs to support their own families, which in turn takes an emotional toll on their own children.
Why doesn’t the Florida Legislature see the value in educators? Are the children themselves not worth the investment? This lack of funding negatively impacts every public school choice, whether traditional, magnet or charters; the people who suffer the brunt of this startling lack of resources, however, have been our students.
As testing has increased, there has been a downward spiral of mental health for our students and educators. Governor Ron DeSantis would be wise to listen to the actual human beings suffering the consequences of kowtowing to corporate interests who have little regard for the psychological distress this system has created.
We must turn the tide against this testand-punish system that devalues and degrades every person who must learn and work in these conditions, and we must do so now, before the damage cannot be undone.