TALLAHASSEE — Given the challenges presented to Florida’s finances by the coronavirus pandemic, the state budget signed today stands as a victory for public education — with caveats.
“Going into the 2021 legislative session, we were told to expect deep cuts in higher education and smaller cuts for PreK-12 public schools. Given the circumstances, the final budget is a win for our students and public schools,” said Florida Education Association (FEA) President Andrew Spar. “It is not perfect. This budget fails veteran teachers, the experienced professionals we’re struggling to keep in classrooms, and it fails to reward the support staff who are essential to educating our students. It funds unaccountable private and religious schools at the expense of the public schools that educate 90 percent of Florida’s students.”
In the end, PreK-12 funding was kept level while districts were given some increased flexibility. In a move without precedent in recent memory, money was set aside for the additional students who may return to our schools this fall. Federal dollars also continue to help Florida’s public PreK-12 schools and institutions of higher education. As FEA President Spar said recently, “Thanks go to Congress and President Biden for giving Florida the resources to help our public schools as they come out of the pandemic.”
Some of the federal money will be used to fund bonuses for Florida’s teachers and principals. While those individuals certainly deserve recognition, Spar has pointed out, “It takes a whole educational village to serve students. Giving a bonus to only teachers and principals overlooks all the other people who are crucial to educating kids — bus drivers, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, counselors and many other support staff.”
Pre-pandemic, Florida’s public schools had already suffered decades of underfunding. We rank 43rd nationally in funding for public education. Too many of our students have been left behind by underfunded and under-resourced classrooms.
Our state struggled before Covid and struggles still with severe shortages of the teachers and education staff professionals necessary to meet students’ needs. Efforts to raise minimum teacher salaries have ended up penalizing veteran teachers, the long-serving, highly skilled educators best positioned to guide both students and their less-experienced colleagues.
Now is the time for a great reset for public education in Florida, for a new normal that serves all of our students. The Florida Education Association is committed to making that vision a reality.
CONTACT: Joni Branch, email@example.com, (850) 201-3223
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with 150,000 members. FEA represents PreK-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.