Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Cutting education funding isn’t an accomplish­ment

- By Steven Maltese Steven Maltese, of Deerfield Beach, teaches at Sawgrass Springs Middle School in Coral Springs.

Whenever any of my fellow teachers express concern about how out of touch the School Board is with regard to our pay and workload, I always refer them to the “Meet the Board” link on the Broward County Schools website.

Reading the bios explains everything: CEO of a developmen­t company, lawyer/financial officer, real estate, office leasing, land acquisitio­n, fundraisin­g, etc. If the page did not carry the title “The School Board of Broward County,” there’s very little to hint to the attentive reader that the majority of board members are even involved in education. The collective experience seems completely business oriented. Perhaps this explains the contempt for teachers that permeates the School Board. The alarming fact that some members serve on as many as nine boards and committees, both public and private, is a testament to a lack of focus on what should be a full-time, passionate commitment to the community, not a part-time resume builder. Consequent­ly, our once-proud profession has been systematic­ally devalued.

I guarantee that no member of the School Board could live on the salaries teachers are paid, at least not live the lifestyles to which they are undoubtedl­y accustomed. The board is a reflection of cost-cutting Corporate America, proudly holding wages down while the cost of living continues to increase. Most disturbing is that the School Board regards not paying teachers as some sort of accomplish­ment, when in fact it is just the opposite. It is complete failure. Look at the results of the actions (and inactions) of the School Board: Critical teacher shortages, a mass exodus of the most experience­d teachers, record-low morale and a drastic erosion of teachers’ standing in the community.

There was a time when teachers were highly respected in Broward County. We are now regarded with derision. This disrespect starts at the top, and trickles down from the School Board, through the taxpayers, the parents and directly into the classroom.

The solution? Certainly not to make out-of-state recruiting trips on the taxpayer’s dime in a futile attempt to lure potential employees to Broward County. Any highly qualified teacher already knows that Broward County is not the place to work. Any teacher naive enough to relocate here would most likely be gone within four years, and the statistics prove it.

If the School Board truly cared about the students and the long-term welfare of the community, every effort would be made to retain the dedicated teachers that continue to hold up their end of the “bargain.” Honor the contracts that we signed long ago, when the word “contract” meant something. Restore the step increases that were promised to us. None of us expected to get rich by becoming teachers, but we also did not anticipate having to suffer financial hardship by choosing this vital profession.

Rather than patting themselves on the back for keeping us down, reveling in the power to remove us from meetings if we disagree, the board should restore dignity to thousands of dedicated profession­als. The time is now, to once again allow us to say with pride: “I am a teacher. I teach in Broward County.”

 ??  ?? Maltese

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