Teachers need money—and more—to be successful
Here’s what readers have to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
A student with his fifth-grade teacher at Forest Hill Elementary School in Tampa.
A student with his fifth-grade teacher at Forest Hill Elementary School in Tampa. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Jan. 10, 2020

Teachers need more than raises

Teacher raises not certain | Dec. 25

Teachers want to experience the joy of seeing their students succeed. For many great teachers, it’s their primary motivation. Impact Florida shares Gov. Ron DeSantis’ goal of moving Florida to the top of the salary rankings nationwide. Yet, as important as financial rewards are, they are only part of the support teachers need to be successful.

As the Florida Legislature works with the governor to hash out the details of a teacher compensation package, we urge a comprehensive approach to equip teachers with the conditions for student achievement. By working with school districts, experts, researchers and teachers who achieve exceptional results, Impact Florida has codified the “Five Conditions That Support Great Teaching” school leaders can engage to support excellent instruction.

In addition to improving teacher compensation, we encourage state leaders to make sure they are supporting Florida school district leaders to address all five conditions. This begins with districts working to establish a shared vision of what great teaching looks like. Leaders also need to equip teachers with high-quality, academically rigorous instructional materials so they are not spending valuable time creating curriculum. At the same time, teachers deserve ready access to effective professional learning systems and structures.

In a statewide survey conducted by Impact Florida, 74 percent of teachers said they believe that some long-held instructional practices have actually contributed to achievement gaps. To us, that says educators are willing to make improvements but need school and district leaders to help shift practices effectively.

We must make regular use of data to drive continuous improvement. Effective district and school leaders help teachers identify strengths and weaknesses and develop action plans to support advancement. We need a truly comprehensive strategy that not only wins the battle for teaching talent but supports teachers, student learning and equity.

Mandy Clark, Tallahassee

The writer is co-founder of Impact Florida, a nonpartisan, nonprofit based in Tallahassee.

Why health care is very important to everyone

Tampa General Hospital

Tampa General Hospital on Davis Islands in Tampa
Tampa General Hospital on Davis Islands in Tampa

State senators and representatives convene in Tallahassee Tuesday for the annual legislative session, and I want them to know what’s important to Florida families: high quality, accessible and affordable health care. I know because without Tampa General Hospital, I would not be here today.

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When I was 30, my heart was failing me. I visited many physicians and a handful of hospitals. No one could tell me what was wrong until I arrived at Tampa General Hospital.

The doctors at Tampa General Hospital diagnosed me with congestive heart failure and viral dilated cardiomyopathy. I underwent surgery, and the doctors installed an LVAD, a battery-operated machine to keep my heart pumping until I could get a new one.

Fortunately, I did not wait long. It was less than a year later that I got a call from Tampa General Hospital informing me that I would receive a heart transplant. That wasn’t the only gift of life I received that day. I also learned that my wife was pregnant with our first child.

I knew that I was in good hands at Tampa General Hospital.

People think all hospitals are the same, but they are not. This Tampa Bay landmark is one of the best hospitals in the nation. It has completed more than 10,000 organ transplants, making it one of a few hospitals nationwide to have achieved such a milestone.

The high volume of transplants matters. By performing more operations, the practitioners become more proficient. This leads to better quality and better outcomes.

Because of Tampa General, I am living life today. I hope that this upcoming session the Florida Legislature chooses to support Tampa General Hospital. Families like mine depend on the high quality, accessible and affordable health care it provides to our state.

Richard Hendrix, Winter Garden

Find a better, fairer way

USF study looks at why some people repeatedly end up in jail | Jan. 6

Pasco County Detention Center in Land O' Lakes
Pasco County Detention Center in Land O' Lakes

This study left out one big reason why some people are repeatedly jailed, and we have become quite familiar with it on behalf of a homeless man who does odd jobs for us.

It starts with a traffic misdemeanor, which then requires a court date and a punitive fine. The court appearance incurs court costs.

The homeless man can pay none of it; he doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from. He gets arrested again, incurring more fines and court costs, spends 30 days in jail, and then the whole thing repeats itself, seemingly endlessly. They also impound his vehicle, which is his only shelter. We have twice retrieved his car, paid bail once and paid for a driver’s license renewal that was very expensive due to the fines heaped upon it.

What can possibly be the point of all this? The court system cannot be financed on the backs of people who don’t have it. This man, if he lives another 30 years, will never be able to pay. It will be an endless cycle with no result except that the county/taxpayer will pay the incarceration cost.

We believe there are many people taking up space in the county jail for these kinds of misdemeanors, while the sheriff asks for more beds. We are aware that the Florida Legislature, in its wisdom, sets these fines and fees. There has to be a better way.

Marie Melaugh, Dade City

Cherish every day

Every day is a gift | Column, Jan. 5

I can very definitely relate to Connie Schultz. I also am older than both my parents when they died. In addition, I was the oldest of four children, but two of my three siblings have already died, one just this past June. Holidays and birthdays become more bittersweet, but as Schultz wrote, “every day is a gift” to be cherished and shared with remaining loved ones.

Sue Conrad, Sarasota