Florida is not just one of the largest states in our nation, it is one of the most diverse. That diversity is seen especially in younger generations; almost two-thirds of the state’s PreK-12 populations are racial or ethnic minorities. Despite our differences, there is much that brings us together as Floridians.
No matter where they come from, or how long they have called Florida home, parents want the same things for their children. Parents expect students to be safe and happy at school, as they deserve. Students should be challenged to think critically and to grow into independent thinkers who have the freedom to pursue their dreams regardless of their race or income.
For too long politicians on both sides of the aisle have viewed public schools merely as workforce development. As a result of this narrow view, students and teachers have been subject to over-testing and to ranking and sorting as if everything worth knowing about a student could be measured on a standardized test.
The path to making Florida’s schools the strongest in the nation is by reclaiming the promise of public education.
Yes, our schools should ensure that by the time someone graduates with a high school diploma they are ready for the workforce. But that in itself is far too narrow of a goal. Beyond learning the ABCs and 123, our schools must be places where students participate in the arts, create new things, and where students learn the skills they need to make our country strong. Florida’s students deserve an education that enables them to learn from the mistakes of their past and to help create a better future. Florida’s schools should exemplify the melting pot that is America and be places where all people are not just welcome but celebrated, where differences are embraced.
There is much that must be done legislatively in order to meet the challenges facing Florida’s schools, educators and parents. In direct consultation with the professional educators who work in Florida’s schools and know the students and their families, FEA developed our six critical priorities for the legislative session. However, legislation alone will not solve the problem.
Collaboration and trust between educators, students, parents and the community at large are essential to meeting the goal of making Florida’s schools the strongest in the nation. FEA and our local unions throughout the state work to build relationships within schools and school communities. When Floridians come together, we can ensure that all our students attend safe, welcoming schools where every child can reach their full potential, and we invite anyone who shares that goal to work with us to make public education in Florida the model for the nation.