The State That Betsy DeVos Holds Up As A Model Is Hemorrhaging Teachers

According to a report by the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, Florida's teaching shortage now borders on critical. Midway into the school year, thousands of public school students in South Florida lacked permanent teachers. And the problem will only get worse "as more educators flee the classroom and the number of those seeking teaching degrees plummets."


If you've paid any attention at all Florida's unending efforts to create the worst atmosphere for public education in the country, none of this is the slightest bit suprising. Here are some of the state has done, in no particular order:

All of this over and above the continued drip, drip, drip of starving public schools of resources and finding new ways to treat public school teachers with disrespect. And the pay stinks.

There is no reason to be surprised that Florida teachers are "fleeing." And the article notes just how much fleeing is going on. Broward County lost 1,000 teachers last year--and that's not counting retirees.

The Sun-Sentinel article is brutal, noting that the drain of teachers leads to economic problems for communities, as well as becoming a self-perpetuating problem--as the teacher pool is drained in schools, schools become less effective, which means they turn out fewer and fewer grads well-prepared for or interested in teaching. The article piles on the anecdotal evidence. A teacher who left, tired of constant testing and lack of autonomy. A teacher who left because you can't afford to be a single mom on a Florida teacher salary. A teacher who handles over thirty kids in an honors class because the state class size law only applies to "core" classes.

And of course, Florida is "solving" the problem by opening up alternative paths, because the way to get better teachers and fill teaching jobs is by making it possible to slap any warm body into a classroom. My favorite bar-lowering idea--Florida Atlantic University will give Palm Beach Schools a list of students who flunked out of medical and science programs so that those students can be recruited to teach. And meanwhile the remaining dedicated, qualified teachers of Florida wonder how much longer they can hold on.

Of course, somehow, these champions of the free market, these lovers of the invisible hand, cannot figure out that if people won't sell you a good or service under the terms you set, free market competition demands that you offer better terms and conditions. It's as simple as that. If you can't buy a Porsche for $1.98, that doesn't mean there's an automobile shortage. Even convenience stores understand that if you can't get enough quality people to work for you, you have to offer better terms of employment. Florida's leaders simply insist on pretending not to understand this, even as they try to starve public education so that the unregulated world of Florida charter schools will look more appealing. This is like setting fire to an apartment building so that the tenants will "choose" to move into a shifty trailer park operation, while in the meantime you "try" to hire firefighters by offering $1.00 an hour wages and a punch-in-the-face benefits.

This--all of this--is what Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos thinks is the shining light that our nation should be following. This disastrous train wreck, this state that has worked hard to destroy its public education system--this is what DeVos thinks the nation should be emulating. Run the public system into the ground, drive the teachers away, and sell the pieces to privatizers.

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