Teachers deserve more


Teachers deserve more than the State wants to give them

My Turn

Jim Croteau

George Washington once wrote, “There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.” Sadly, today’s conflict is between “your science and books” and “my science and books”, and our public schools are the battleground of this culture and political war.

Both conservatives and liberals agree that education of our youth is essential to the continued growth of our economy, democracy and country. However, a recent poll by YouGovAmerica reported that nearly two-thirds of Republicans surveyed were concerned that, “Students are being indoctrinated with liberal ideas” in our public school classrooms. The proof they say is that most teachers and teacher professional organizations (“unions”) have supported Democratic candidates in the past. And, of course, they believe all Democrats are pushing a radical left wing agenda.

To prevent this liberal indoctrination Florida’s Governor, legislature and state education leaders are closely monitoring public school curricula, textbooks adoptions, library contents and programs supporting diversity, equity and inclusion. Expanding vouchers is another theme, though ironically it allows more children to leave the highly regulated public schools to attend private and parochial schools that are exempt from any monitoring or accountability by the state or local school board.

What should be more concerning to both the left and the right is the critical teacher shortage in Florida. In January 2023, Florida public schools were advertising for nearly 5300 teachers. Despite the legislature’s mandated increases to starting teachers’ salaries to $45,000, the number of vacancies has more than doubled in the last two years. Over 50% of new teachers continue to leave the profession within the first three years unable to cope with the time, energy and discipline challenges they face. Experienced teachers have recently left the profession in larger numbers as a result of COVID disruptions, salary compression caused by restrictive legislation, rigid curriculum, testing and accountability, and classroom behavior management stresses.

What politicians overlook is the fact that most teachers do not go into or stay in teaching for the money. Certainly it is not for the status. People do not go into teaching because they want to indoctrinate children with liberal ideas.  They enter the profession because they wish to make a positive impact on society by helping children get the tools to be successful in life. And just like all parents, teachers want to see children become happy and economically successful adults.

What will it take to get and keep more teachers dedicated to the full development of children’s potential? The key word is, ”Respect”. If and when public school teaching can regain the status as an essential helping profession, recognized as it was for brief moment during COVID, we can take a step. This is not a time to lower standards for becoming a teacher as the workload and pressures are increasing. This is a time to support programs like FSU College of Education’s “Project ElevatEd” effort to recruit, train and retain more educators in the workforce. This recognition program has spread to most Florida public universities and other states, highlighting outstanding teachers at football and basketball games, providing scholarships and rewards, and reinforcing the importance of the profession.

This is only a start for all of us to say that teaching is a special calling and good teachers are a precious commodity. As public school teachers face the most challenging task of overcoming class, race, social and emotional issues facing students, they deserve more. Despite the discouraging words of politicians and pundits, anyone who has spent time in a classroom, knows teachers deserve appreciation, encouragement and, most of all, respect.

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