The Florida Constitution provides that all children are guaranteed a quality public education, but the Florida legislature is undermining that guarantee with education policies that drive more children to private and charter schools for profit and drive teachers out of the profession. MidPoint host Shelley Reback called it a “death by a thousand cuts” to the system: cuts in funding, cuts in support. Most recently, legislation has attempted to cut curriculums as well.
Joined by Rob Kreite, president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, and Nancy Velardi, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, WMNF Midpoint discussed Florida’s “War on Teachers”, and what can be done to save the quality public education our constitution guarantees.
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A new bill introduced in the Florida Senate aims to block the teaching of subjects that would cause “discomfort” to students, namely white students. Other laws have already been passed to block the teaching of Critical Race Theory, which Governor Ron DeSantis decries as a part of “cultural Marxism”.
However, as Kriete explained, the new bill felt like a part of ongoing “manufactured crises” in the public education system. Critical Race Theory has been banned in Florida Public Schools already, and the uncomfortable historical subjects being scrutinized are all part of approved curricula by the state. Furthermore, the subjects being taught aren’t just stories meant to make kids squirm; the uncomfortable subjects like slavery and the Holocaust (both of which were mentioned in the bill) are real and factual parts of history. They may be difficult and harrowing, but they are real.
“[Discomfort] is a part of the learning experience and the growing experience,” Velardi said.
In addition to the attacks on curricula, teachers have also found their wages the subject of cuts and reforms. Despite having one of the highest public school enrollments in the country, Florida’s teacher salaries are among the lowest in the country. Legislation that passed last year provided that new teachers would have higher salaries, leading them to eventually out-earn veteran teachers.
According to Velardi, veteran teachers would be earning 25% less than new teachers, and the exodus of veteran teachers has already begun.
“We love the fact that new teachers bring vitality and… interesting changes to the classroom,” Velardi said, “but we also must respect the experienced.”