The education system in Florida has been facing several challenges over the past few years. The pandemic merely shifted our attention from these important issues. But, since children are back to school, parents are starting to protest certain policies, and teachers are grappling with their roles.
Public schools in Florida barely have enough teachers, bus drivers, and other support staff. This has been caused by low salaries and refusal to give multi-year employment contracts. The State’s education sector can be said to suffer from bad legislation and poor budgetary allocation.
The challenges Florida’s education system faces
Florida’s poor education system affects everyone directly involved in schooling. Students are finding it hard to understand critical topics and teachers are feeling undervalued as well as unappreciated. Below are some of the issues affecting Florida’s public schools.
1. Poor legislation
Over the years, Florida has passed laws that did nothing to improve the education system. They introduced strict rules on standardized tests which forces teachers to teach-to-the-test. Many students have to repeat grades till they pass these tests. The legislation also refuses to give multi-year contracts as well as allocate enough funds to the schooling system.
2. Low teacher salaries
It’s no news that Florida ranks 48th nationally for teacher salaries. The state doesn’t have an actual teaching budget and that leaves many qualified teachers with low salaries. This issue has made teachers and potential educators lose interest in the profession. As a result, few teachers are available to teach thousands of students.
3. Teacher shortages
According to the Florida Education Association, there are over 5000 openings for teachers and about 4000 more for school support staff. Students began the present school year with limited full-time teachers. Many educators are leaving schools and young people are not interested in pursuing a career in education. Some districts have resorted to hiring untrained or underqualified teachers.
4. Beleaguered infrastructure
One would expect to find a surplus of non-teaching staff in Florida’s public schools but that isn’t the case. There’s a severe shortage of school bus drivers, office managers, custodians, and food service workers. Paraprofessional support staff such as school counselors and school resource officers are less available too. These shortages threaten the safety and well-being of students in the state.
5. Avoiding overcrowded classrooms
As the COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread, parents and teachers are concerned about the children’s welfare. Ever since Gov. DeSantis has made masks optional, overcrowded classrooms are finding it difficult to observe social distancing. Florida also has a growing number of child enrollments but not enough capacity. Most districts have small class sizes and do not leave enough room for spaces between students.
6. Social issues
Both public and private schools in Florida have been accused of having discriminatory admission and discipline policies. College students are also tired of racial inequities and they demand equal rights to education and zero discrimination. The same goes for LGBTQ youth, and kids from low social-economic backgrounds. Everyone deserves quality education regardless of color, class, identity, or sexual orientation.
How can we fix Florida’s education issues?
The challenges faced by Florida’s public schools can mostly be addressed by The Governor, The House Leaders, and The Board of Education. These lawmakers should listen to education professionals and implement long-term solutions. Here are possible ways to fix Florida’s education issues:
● Review and change government legislation
The legislation for the education system in Florida is poor. The laws should be reviewed and changed to allow flexibility. Educators need to be given a supportive environment and allowed more autonomy rather than being forced to stick to scripted lessons. The primary goal of schools in the state should be to teach students valuable knowledge and not just for testing or test preparation.
● Improve salaries and benefits
Fewer young people are choosing to become teachers and more veteran educators are leaving the profession. From 2010 through 2018, there has been a 35 percent decline in people taking teacher-preparation programs. Before Florida can experience an increase in teaching and non-teaching staff, there needs to be an increase in salaries and benefits. Also, veteran, or expert educators should earn more than new teachers.
● Implement multi-year contracts to increase job security
Across the United States, there’s a huge decline in interest in teaching programs. Everyone is starting to perceive teaching as an undesirable career and before we know it, there will be zero teachers in schools. Lawmakers should implement multi-year contracts so teachers can boast of job security rather than face dismissal every year. This would also attract college graduates who want to join the profession.
● Encourage dialogue between senior educators, government, and other stakeholders to advocate for solutions
The legislature can greatly improve Florida’s education system. Senior educators, members of the House, The board of Education, and the government need to advocate for possible solutions. Some actions to advocate for include allowing multi-year contracts, fair and competitive pay for teachers, reduction of standardized testing, and removal of high stakes associated with tests.
● Encourage teachers to pursue further studies
Florida’s education system would benefit from more influential voices. There is a shortage of leaders who can help to address these challenges in public schools. A doctorate degree in education can unlock new opportunities for teachers who are interested in leadership roles. Administrators, directors, and other educational leaders will then be in positions where they can better influence and improve the education system and make a difference not only for teachers, but also the students.
● Allocate more funding to improve school and teacher resources
The State government should allocate more funding to improve school infrastructure as well as teacher resources. Most districts need better classrooms, new teachers need mentoring support and non-teaching professionals also require professional development. Children from lower-income families need financial assistance and troubled kids require access to counseling services.
● Partner with community-based organizations, NGOs, and corporates to improve student welfare
Sometimes, it requires more than the government to improve the education system. NGOs, corporates, and community-based organizations can contribute to improving student welfare. They could solicit donations and grants to help provide books, materials, or school uniforms for homeless kids or those from low-income homes.