Legislative Policy Agenda
Strong public schools are the heartbeat of our communities. From the joy and energy of an elementary school cafeteria at lunchtime, to the camaraderie of sharing a school bus ride, to Friday night football with the grandeur of a high school marching band — school is where childhood happens. Our public schools are where children’s imaginations are sparked, where lifelong lessons are learned and where students gain the skills they need to thrive as they transition to adulthood. Our public schools are the best places to inspire students’ natural curiosity and their desire to learn. When we work together, we can build the world class education system that we dream of. By ensuring that resources are available, the Florida Legislature can demonstrate their commitment to providing every child the education they deserve, regardless of race, income or ZIP code.
Six Critical Priorities
- Students deserve highly qualified and certified teachers and support staff. To attract the strongest teachers and support staff, Florida must increase average pay to rank in the top five nationally – for all teachers, not just new teachers.
- Provide qualified, experienced teachers the opportunity to enter into long-term contracts so the best teachers stay in our schools and don’t seek jobs elsewhere.
- Protect academic freedom at Florida’s colleges and universities by fighting to repeal the newly required intellectual viewpoint survey of higher education faculty and students.
- Protect the Florida Retirement System without burdening employees with additional costs.
- Prioritize teacher-led assessments and learning over state-mandated standardized tests.
- Respect the rights of people to make decisions locally. Those who know the names and faces of the students are best suited to make decisions regarding their education.
FEA Session Focus
For the 2021-22 school year, a return to normal is not good enough. Florida’s students deserve to attend schools that are fully staffed with highly qualified and certified teachers; schools with small class sizes that allow for one-on-one attention; schools with full-time registered nurses, counselors and mental health professionals; schools that focus on real learning and authentic assessment; schools where students’ unique needs are met and every student excels, no matter, their race, income, ZIP code or disability. Members of the Florida Education Association work hard to ensure our public schools are places where students’ imaginations can soar, and each and every student is provided the tools and lessons to make their wildest dreams come true.
Unfortunately, self-interested politicians have spent two decades attacking that vision. Rather than investing in schools as a place of world-class education for all students, they have schemed to divert public funding to their friends who profit from charter school corporations and from unaccountable private and religious schools. This diversion of funds has come at a significant cost. Low pay, failed bonus schemes, and policies passed in Tallahassee that value student data more than students themselves have forced professional educators to seek employment elsewhere.
Educators have had enough, and we are coming together and demanding better for our students, ourselves and our communities. This legislative session we stand united to ensure legislators will live up to their mandate in the Florida Constitution that every student has a right to a “high quality system of free public schools.” We are 150,000 members strong from Pensacola to the Keys, and we are speaking with one voice to say that after two decades of disinvestment in public schools, we are now ushering in a decade of progress.
We are calling on lawmakers to:
- Expand the financial investments in our schools and allocate sufficient funds to fairly compensate all school employees.
- Ensure that students and educators are kept safe and learning progress continues as we recover from the pandemic.
- Help address our educator shortage by allowing qualified, experienced teachers to earn multi-year contracts.
- Prioritize teacher-led assessments and learning over mandated standardized tests.
- Respect the rights of people to make decisions locally.
- Protect academic freedom at our state colleges and universities.
Florida’s students, educators, and public schools deserve our lawmakers’ support for strong 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.