Teach­ers un­der­val­ued through low pay, overem­pha­sis on test­ing

Orlando Sentinel - - OPINION - By Ryan Haczyn­ski

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.

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