The most important thing that the State of Florida does is educate its children.
And the most important component of the state’s K-12 system is its teachers. Nothing else even comes close.
There is broad bipartisan agreement that Florida’s teacher pipeline is in trouble. It was even a major subject at the last meeting of the House Education Committee.
But there is not yet a serious proposal for addressing the teacher pipeline. With Florida’s short legislative session starting in only a week, this is quite distressing.
There are a few modest proposals on the table. Senator Montford’s scholarship program for students in traditional teacher education programs (SB 688) sidesteps the fact that a huge component of the state’s teacher pipeline goes through non-traditional “alternative certification” routes. At any rate, there is no House companion bill for Montford’s proposal – making it unlikely that the scholarship proposal will get very far.
A modest student loan forgiveness program for teachers in STEM subjects was proposed by House and Senate Democrats (SB 274 and HB 403), but it is nearly identical to a proposal that made little headway through the legislative process last year.
There has been talk of teacher incentives to replace the controversial Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, but there is nothing yet in writing.
I regularly talk with the students in my physics classes at FSU about the importance of teaching, but they most frequently respond that their own high school teachers told them that teaching in Florida is an awful career choice, to be avoided at all costs. And it’s not as if my students – majoring in fields like engineering, computer science and physics – are going to have trouble finding jobs when they graduate. If legislators want my students to seriously consider teaching – and legislators should want this – then they will have to make some bold changes in the the conditions under which teachers presently work.
But right now, with only a week to go until the Legislature convenes, it doesn’t look as if anything at all is going to happen, bold or not.