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Federal funds can lift up all the people in our schools

TALLAHASSEE — Teachers, education staff, parents and our communities have come together over the past 14 months to ensure that our students had as much support as we could offer. The Florida Education Association (FEA) appreciates that the federal government has provided additional funds to assist us in that effort, and that Florida’s public school teachers stand to benefit directly from federal largesse.

“Thanks go to Congress and President Biden for giving Florida the resources to help our public schools as they come out of the pandemic,” said FEA President Andrew Spar. “Public school teachers certainly deserve to be rewarded for their work. However, 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. We know the importance of the mental health professionals in our schools who are helping children cope with this past year’s trauma, but even they will not be rewarded by this bonus.”

In the best case scenario, educators, school districts and state officials would work together to ensure that the incoming federal dollars go to support our schools’ continued growth in the areas that our students most need — in each community, without creating winners and losers.

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. Federal funds offer a unique opportunity to help our districts better meet the needs of their students.

CONTACT: Joni Branch, joni.branch@floridaea.org, (850) 201-3223

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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.

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