TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s communities support their neighborhood public schools. That was crystal clear last November when 19 counties across Florida overwhelmingly voted to raise their own taxes to support their neighborhood public schools, the educators who work in them, and the students who attend them. Florida’s taxpayers understand that our public schools are the most important part of the foundation for opportunity, prosperity and quality of life in our communities.
“If lawmakers are serious about every child’s future, they should get serious about doing what works. We should focus on investing in public schools, where 90 percent of Florida’s children go, not diverting money from them for the 10 percent who go to private schools,” Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said. “That means resourcing our neighborhood public schools so that students have inviting classrooms, a well-rounded curriculum, class sizes that are small enough for one-on-one attention, and support services such as health care, nutrition and after-school programs for students who need them.”
In contrast, on Friday we saw a biased poll blast-email by pro-voucher group ExcelinEd. The release of this poorly designed and flawed survey does tell us one thing: This group is afraid of the real facts. What valid research has told us time and again is that vouchers are not a priority for Florida parents. In fact, they overwhelmingly support the need for more funding in public schools. Lawmakers and opinion leaders should push this poll into the trash bin.
The fact is Florida lags behind nearly every other state in the nation in per-student funding and in teacher and support staff pay. Florida ranks 45th in the nation for teacher salaries, and 47th in pay for education staff. The average teacher salary here is more than $10,000 less than the national average.
At a time when our nation and our state face serious budget challenges, the last thing we need to do is spend scarce taxpayer dollars on vouchers for unaccountable private schools. We have a responsibility to provide great public schools for every student in Florida. That is our best bet for setting every student in Florida off toward a great future.
CONTACT: Sharon Nesvig, (850) 201-2833 or (850) 510-9346
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 140,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.