Legislative Policy Agenda
Unprecedented challenges to our communities, especially our public-school families, have strained Florida’s ability to respond to the health crisis and economic instability across the country. As the pandemic continues to spread, we must ensure a safe and effective PreK-12 and higher education system to meet the challenges required for the 21st century learning environment and workplace, protect taxpayer investments, and treat educators and education staff professionals with respect and dignity. Our state’s educators continue to provide the education and services our students need amid the greatest public health crisis our country has ever faced.
We believe the path to economic recovery depends on a world-class education system, rooted in public trust and grounded in three principles: investment in our neighborhood public schools, student success, and recruitment and retention of educators. The Florida Education Association continues to advocate for all three principles built on one underlying message: Fund Our Future – A Decade of Progress.
Five Critical Priorities
- Preserve and expand the financial investments in public school employees and schools that are required to keep our students and staff safe and able to learn, particularly during the pandemic.
- Create a more stable workforce through opportunities to earn multi-year contracts.
- Protect the Florida Retirement System without burdening employees with additional costs.
- Promote the use of formative assessment and learning over time spent on standardized testing as the disruptions caused by the pandemic invalidate the already questionable accountability system.
- Reaffirm the need for local decision-making. School boards and affiliates must have the freedom to negotiate fair and equitable salary plans and working conditions that will best serve the school community. Districts must also be able to determine the best way to minimize the impact of Covid-19 on our schools and communities.
Our Constitutional Obligation: Ensuring Access to Free and High-Quality Schools
- Uphold the constitutional authority and obligations of local elected school boards with respect to collective bargaining and supervision of tax-funded private and charter schools.
- Increase public engagement in all schools.
- Hold all schools, colleges and universities receiving public funds (including charter and private schools) to equitable, high standards.
The Elements of Success
Safe, Healthy and Effective Environment
- Provide full access and funding for effective methods for preventing, tracking, and responding to potential
spread of Covid-19 and transparency in reporting impacts on our schools, colleges, and communities.
- Ensure school campuses (Pre-K through higher education) are secure, safe, and well-maintained, and can provide student and family support and interventions.
- Require non-discriminatory practices in employment, enrollment, and instruction for all schools receiving public funds.
- Eliminate overcrowded classrooms including virtual, hybrid, and brick and mortar models of instruction.
Support for Learning
- Support expansion of high-quality prekindergarten programs including access to full day programs with professionally certified teachers.
- Emphasize formative assessments and rapid return of student assessment results rather than delayed high-stakes accountability.
- Revitalize teacher evaluation to focus on improving effective teaching and learning strategies.
- Incentivize retention in the teaching profession by restoring extended and multi-year contracts after a probationary period.
- Promote meaningful professional development for instructional personnel and non-instructional staff professionals.
Fairness in Funding
- Ensure all public-school classrooms prioritize equitable learning environments for all students regardless of the student’s personal and societal circumstances.
- Continue full funding and flexibility of restricted use funds for Pre-K through higher education for both
normal educational costs and emergency response.
- Capture annual increases in property value for all properties, not just new builds, through the Required Local Effort, ending rate roll backs that decrease purchasing power of local school districts.
- Ensure school district resources are adequate to implement the phase-in to the $15 minimum wage.
- Require needs assessments to drive funding priorities for all capital projects.
- Provide incentives such as loan forgiveness, grants, scholarships, and program support for pre-service teacher programs.
- Strengthen alternative certification preparation to require instruction and supervised practice before a new teacher assumes responsibility for student instruction, along with time and funding for structured mentoring support for all new teachers.
- Include professionally certified prekindergarten teachers in the statutory definition of classroom teachers.
- Design streamlined certification pathways and incentives for instructional aides to become teachers.
- Grant fee waivers along with tuition waivers to graduate assistants and university employees.
- Protect Florida’s existing retirement system including all current retirees and fully vested employee benefits and maintain the defined benefit and defined contribution options for all education (regular class) employees.
FEA Session Focus
The Covid-19 pandemic is teaching everyone what educators already knew: our neighborhood public schools are essential for student learning, for students’ emotional and psychological well-being, for the health of our communities, and for the economy. The world watched as our teachers and education staff professionals overcame tremendous obstacles to keep students safe, fed, and learning.
In Florida, educators’ dedication to our students stands in sharp contrast to our state’s disregard for public education. We are experiencing more than a decade of state-sanctioned disinvestment of our public schools, erosion of local control in our school districts, high-stakes testing regimes that steal away time for real teaching and learning, and a school accountability system that penalizes impoverished schools in poor communities.
Now, more than ever, Floridians need lawmakers who will focus on continuing our Decade of Progress. It is time to invest in our neighborhood schools, to retain and recruit the best workforce in the country, and to prioritize student success. We are experiencing a massive teacher shortage all across our state, and the situation has only gotten worse during the pandemic. Florida’s lawmakers must prioritize proactive, constructive actions during the 2021 Legislative Session. We are calling on lawmakers to:
- Preserve and expand the financial investments in our schools, and allocate adequate funds in order for districts to fairly compensate all school employees
- Ensure that students and educators are kept safe in the ongoing pandemic
- Help address our educator shortage by allowing qualified teachers to earn multi-year contracts
- Pause the negative consequences associated with high-stakes testing for at least two years
- Allow locally elected school boards more control over their own districts
- Protect academic freedom at our state colleges and universities
Florida’s students, educators, and public schools deserve our lawmakers’ support for public education, and their genuine effort in creating a “high quality system of free public schools”* in the state. In the best interest of future generations, lawmakers must do what is right for our schools. What we are seeing instead is time and effort wasted on measures that would harm both students and the people who serve them. We will continue to stand united against:
- Bills that take away our freedom to join in union to advocate for our students and our profession, such as taking away payroll deductions and singling out educator unions.
- Voucher expansion bills which expand unaccountable private and religious school voucher programs and drain resources from our public schools.
- Retirement legislation that threatens the stability of the FRS pension plan or forces employees into plans that have a less stable and less reliable returns, or require higher employee contributions.
- Legislation that attempts to block and limit the academic freedom of college and university professors.
- Attacks on Florida’s Sunshine Laws, such as exempting colleges and universities from revealing applicants for president of an institution.