Total Pageviews

Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Improving schools, not cutting taxes is the way to attract businesses to Florida

From the Miami Herald Editorial Page

As Florida public school students try to quell their testing jitters over the next two weeks during the annual FCAT migraine challenge, lawmakers in Tallahassee are offering little to calm parents and taxpayers’ fears that the annual Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and other proposed “reforms” will ensure success for more children.

It’s hard, indeed, to see progress ahead when Florida Gov. Rick Scott promised to hold education “harmless” during the campaign but now champions a 10-percent cut to public-school budgets. Legislators’ idea of a compromise? Slash education by 7 percent.

That’s not chump change. School districts already have had their budgets cut over several years because of the tough economy and dropping tax revenues. That 7 percent represents a loss for struggling school districts of as much as $463 per student in a state that already ranks low in funding.

Money can’t buy you happiness, we know, but it surely can be used to pay teachers a better salary than most get today. No wonder so many good teachers are leaving the public school system. They feel disrespected, because they are not rewarded for a tough job, particularly in schools serving disadvantaged communities.

Money alone won’t guarantee success, of course. That’s why the federal Race to the Top program that seeks to reward teachers for their classroom successes is critical to any true reform. Paying teachers for longevity in the classroom, as most school systems do now, without taking into account their students’ performance won’t cut it. But neither will one-year teaching contracts if districts can’t take into account the challenges teachers have in their classrooms, whether their students come from impoverished or drug-addicted homes, are learning English for the first time or other factors that can affect a student’s ability to learn.

One frustration: Florida is getting the Race to the Top money to come up with the new strategies to measure teachers’ success, yet there’s no money in the proposed state budget for next fiscal year to pay those successful teachers.

Gutting school boards, as some lawmakers would like to do, doesn’t make any sense either. Local school boards are on the front lines of reform. Tallahassee mandates without school boards’ input are doomed to fail.

Charter schools are another area of reform that offers a mixed bag of possibilities. Charters give families more choices and they are exempt from various state or district rules. But they also can be utter failures, as several charters have proved when they were closed by districts for poor results. Deregulation won’t make those schools better.

Neither will granting 15-year contracts to high-performing charters, as some legislators want. That’s not a reward, that’s a giveaway. A three- to five-year contract for strong charters to face renewal protects students and taxpayers.

Bottom line: Any state that wants to attract new businesses must show it offers a vibrant educational system. Legislators so far are failing that lesson.

Read more:

No comments:

Post a Comment