ARE FLORIDA EDUCATORS REALLY APPRECIATED?
Do the powers that be in this state REALLY appreciate our Public Education professionals? Let’s take a look at the evidence.
Over that last several years, legislation has been proposed or passed that has specifically targeted Public Education employees and/or their unions. Police, fire, and corrections employees have been “carved out” of these punitive bills because they were labeled as “essential workers” and “first responders”. Correct me if I am wrong, but 4th quarter of last school year, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, wasn’t it the education community who came together to produce a “hybrid” online learning module that allowed our students to continue their learning? And wasn’t it the education community that worked feverishly, in a myriad of capacities, to see to it that our students had three different options to pursue their education this school year, whatever their personal comfort level was?
Bus drivers were certainly “essential” in getting students to and from school and were face to face with medical concerns daily in transporting our students. Custodians worked hard daily cleaning facilities to allow for a safe environment for teaching and learning. FNS employees delivered meals to families during the 4th quarter of last year and all summer providing for many the only meals they received. All of them in close proximity to potential danger. Teachers and support staff worked daily to provide the best educational opportunity for students to thrive academically. Many returned to brick-and-mortar buildings despite having concerns over their own health, but prioritized student learning. The pandemic was the emergency in all these situations and the first responders were the Public Education employees in this great state who stood up and stood firm for our students, demanding safe situations to continue academics. They were VERY essential in making this year what it was for students.
The legislature has required personnel in the state pension plan, including educators, to pay 3% of their earnings “to support the Florida Retirement System”, one of the strongest pension plans in the country, and then repeatedly filed bills to eventually shut the program down. “Teachers”, which is a statutory definition that doesn’t really include all educators, and doesn’t include any support staff at all, have been offered “bonuses” for such things as high school test scores, working diligently to improve a schools’ performance grade and this year, the Governor proposed and the legislature approve a $1,000 bonus to “teachers” (there’s that definition again) and principals, – because they worked so hard this last year. The DOE Commissioner gave reprieve to promotion and retentions, school grades, punitive actions for schools in TurnAround plans, but conveniently forgot to hold teachers harmless for student test scores for this COVID interrupted year.
As mentioned above, the education wheel, while having teachers as the hub of the wheel, has many different supporting spokes who support the educational process in many different ways. Take away any one of those spokes and the wheel cannot turn and our students suffer.
This was supposed to be “The Year of the Teacher”. Ask a teacher or any other education professional, if they feel appreciated with all that has been put on their plate and all they have endured to move our students forward academically. I dare say few would say yes.
We should acknowledge the hard work, the sacrifices, the determination to push forward no matter what, the extraordinary things all our Public Education professionals have accomplished over the last 1¼ years. They do not get the salaries they deserve, because preparing the leaders of tomorrow today is priceless. Say something, do something, with sincerity, and let your child’s teacher know how much you appreciate them accepting the calling to our beloved profession. It does not need to be a thankless job.
Don Peace, President
United School Employees of Pasco