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Solving Florida’s teacher and staff shortage

More than a decade of bad policy created Florida’s teacher and staff shortage. Here are some short- and long-term actions that will help retain and recruit the teachers and support staff needed to provide all our students with the education they deserve.

Immediately:

  • Stop bashing teachers and staff! Show educators respect by uplifting the great work they do instead of demonizing them to score political points.
  • Empower teachers and staff to do their jobs. Treat teachers as professionals by allowing them to choose curriculum materials and methods to meet the state standards.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to professional excellence. Restore funding for teachers who earn a national board certification.
  • Reduce standardized testing. Let teachers teach and students learn. Teachers did not go into the profession to be test administrators; we must minimize standardized testing so we can maximize learning opportunities.
  • Reduce endless paperwork. Any paperwork that is not directly related to improving student performance, should not be part of educators’ jobs.
  • Support our schools! Lawmakers must act to address the roots of the shortage, but efforts by local communities to support students, teachers and staff are always appreciated — through volunteering, donations or by simply speaking up for local public schools.
  • Spend time in our shoes. Elected officials can spend a week, or a day, in our schools with teachers and/or staff to better understand what our students need.
  • Encourage teachers and staff who have left to return by making these immediate changes and addressing long-term solutions.

Long-term, starting with the next legislative session lawmakers can:

  • Right-size funding for our students and public schools. The state with the nation’s fourth-largest economy can do better than a ranking of 44th in the nation for funding education. Let’s get Florida into the top 10 states. Our students deserve strong public schools.
  • Better support students’ mental health. Provide funding for enough school counselors, social workers and psychologists to provide every student with the support they need.
  • Repeal the 20-plus laws that have kept teacher pay down. Current laws have created an experience penalty that leaves some educators with 10 or more years of experience making the same as new recruits.
  • Get Florida into the top 10 states in the nation in average pay. Our state has lagged near the bottom of national rankings in average pay for teachers and staff. In the most recent figures from the National Education Association, average teacher pay in Florida ranks 48th.
  • Give teachers a chance to earn long-term contracts. Since 2011, all hires face a pink slip every year. Promoting job stability will allow teachers to stand up for kids and families without fearing the loss of their job.
  • Support new teachers with robust mentoring programs. Mentors should be highly trained and experienced teachers who are released for full-time mentorship so they can devote all of their time to supporting new and struggling teachers. That means those experienced educators will not be teaching classes in the short term, but the long-term payoff will be more great teachers in front of our students, teachers who will be more likely to continue in the profession because they are adequately prepared to deal with its demands.
  • Prioritize recruiting racial and ethnic minorities. Double current state funding for the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers.
  • Boost teacher education. Support Florida’s colleges and universities as they enhance and grow their teacher education programs.
  • Provide financial support for college students who major in education and become teachers.
  • Help high school graduates become teachers. Develop and support programs that encourage them to enter the profession.
  • Eliminate fees for teacher certification and renewal for all teachers.
  • Add paraprofessionals to high poverty schools in grades K-2 in order to increase one-on-one instruction and support for students who often come to school unprepared to learn. If we want every child to succeed, we must recognize that kids who live in poverty need additional supports.
  • Neighborhood public schools are the center of their community. When we develop community schools that foster strong relationships between parents, teachers, and students, and the larger community, we will create an environment where the entire community can thrive.

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