Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: No wonder there is a teacher shortage in Florida

Florida is facing a serious teacher shortage, and itís no surprise given the low pay, low career esteem, long hours and bureaucratic burdens of standardized testing and paperwork. Making the stateís classrooms a more attractive place to work will require more than higher pay ó although that would be a start. It will take better training, more freedom in the classroom to teach and, to quote the late Aretha Franklin, just a little respect.

Numbers compiled by the Florida Education Association show there were 4,063 teacher vacancies statewide as the school year started. That compared with 3,000 last year and 2,400 the year before. While the numbers may be a bit imprecise, the trend line is clear.

Pay is part of the problem. Starting pay for a teacher is as little as $30,900 in rural Taylor County. Even Pinellas Countyís starting teacher pay, which at $43,000 is in the top tier statewide, is below the countyís median family income and doesnít really pay enough for someone hoping to buy a new a car and rent or buy a decent place to live.

But itís not just pay. Teachers routinely have too few resources, covering school supplies and other essentials out of their own pockets. They are given too little time to plan so that work hours extend deep into the evening and on the weekends. Their classroom time can be so proscribed by picayune district and state rules that they have little flexibility. Tests and assessments come so frequently that they interfere with classroom instruction and become education-interrupting exercises in frustration.

The class-size amendment, with its strict rules on students per class, has amplified the problem as districts scramble to hire enough teachers to meet the legal requirements. But some districts have found it cheaper simply to pay fines for too-crowded classrooms rather than hire enough teachers. That helps no one at all. In that sense, the 2002 class size amendment, while well-intentioned, has continued to warp the priorities of state education spending and focus.

Education is a unique profession in that from day one, a new teacher can be left by herself in a class full of students ó whether itís first grade or calculus ó to be in charge of instruction, discipline, classroom management and helping the struggling student master the material while challenging the top student to achieve yet more, at the same time keeping the fidgeting kid in the back from disrupting the entire enterprise.

Things need to improve ó and now. Start with pay. Florida ranks 45th in average teacher pay ($47,267) and is far lower than the national average of $59,660. The National Education Association calculates that average teacher pay in Florida, adjusted for inflation, has declined by 12.2 percent over the past decade. Still, teachers donít do it for the money.

Everybody remembers a great teacher, that special person who sparked a passion or saw a special something in a student. What made that teacher extraordinary wasnít some rote quality that could be reduced to a test score or easily measured by a value-added model. It was a certain something that everyone could sense but no one could actually measure. And in trying to isolate the precise qualities that demonstrate a great teacherís excellence, officials have made it a bloodless exercise, devoid of passion, when superb teaching is as much art as science.

Whatever the field, good hiring managers find the best people, pay them well and give them freedom to do their jobs. Give teachers the tools they need, the pay they deserve and the respect they merit, and all the rest will take care of itself.

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Editorial: Hillsborough commissioners’ parting gift for phosphate

Editorial: Hillsborough commissioners’ parting gift for phosphate

There was no rush to approve Mosaic’s request to pipe clay into the county -- except politics.
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Hurricanes and wildfires show the need to fight climate change now

Editorial: Hurricanes and wildfires show the need to fight climate change now

Wildfires and hurricanes show we’re living with devastating climate change. Congress should create a national catastrophe fund and a carbon tax.
Published: 11/19/18
Column: Following through on Hillsborough education referendum

Column: Following through on Hillsborough education referendum

Your vote sends a message to our leaders that we value education.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Local referendums cannot make up for Tallahassee’s cuts.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Tampa's Riverwalk continues to grow into its own.This month, the American Planning Association named the linear park along the Hillsborough River through downtown Tampa as the winner of its "People's Choice" award. Part of the association's...
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

St. Petersburg’s proposed 5-cent fee on shopping bags could encourage better consumer habits.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Domestic violence carries a huge price tag in addition to the human toll.
Published: 11/15/18
Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

The Conviction Review Unit follows through on a campaign pledge to review past conviction cases.
Published: 11/14/18
Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott should stop making unfounded claims of voter fraud.
Published: 11/13/18
Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Hillsborough County scored a historic win this month when voters approved a one-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. The $9 billion or more it will generate over the next 30 years should transform mobility across the region and impr...
Published: 11/12/18