Anew public school teacher. A new lawyer. Both take tests to be certified to work in Florida. Guess whose exams cost more?
Coming out of law school, a graduate who signed up early can take the Bar exam for $375. Coming out of college, a new teacher will soon have to pay $480 because of higher test fees adopted Tuesday by the state Board of Education. That's not right. The Legislature and the board are sending the wrong message to new teachers at the very time Florida schools need the best and brightest at the head of their classrooms to build an information society.
Public school teachers take three certification tests, one in general knowledge, one about teaching and one in their specific subject area. Until a few months ago, taking all three cost $75. On Jan. 1, the price doubled to $150. Because of Tuesday's vote, that price will rise to $480 on Sept. 1. That is a substantial sum of money for a graduate entering the teaching force — in the ballpark of a week's take-home pay for a starting teacher who makes $37,300 in Pinellas County.
The board raised the fees so that teachers, not the state, bear more of the costs of developing and administering the tests — and because the Legislature did not appropriate enough general tax dollars. There is nothing wrong with asking professionals to cover much of the cost of their accreditation. But that is an awfully steep fee for new teachers, serving the public good at low starting pay.
As it looks at the bottom line, the Board of Education ought to be more aware of the broader message it's sending to college graduates with a lot of career options.