For the past several months the local news has been full of stories about budget issues in Florida. There has been a movement to reduce taxes in the state. Florida is one of the few states with no income tax. As a result of budget cuts all levels of education are suffering from elementary through college. The local school district is really hurting. We live in one of the lowest paying and poorest counties in the state. Part of the reason for this is that a large portion of the land in the county is owned by the University of Florida and is therefore tax exempt. The county school district has taken drastic measures to reduce expenses. All first and second year teachers have been pink slipped. Other proposed suggestions for reducing expenses include cutting art and music classes on the elementary level and reducing electives for secondary schools, reducing the number of media specialist (librarians) and reducing special education services. One of the most troubling propositions is to reduce the school week from 4 1/2 days to 4 days on the elementary level. The state of the education in Florida is disconcerting for many reasons.
Yes, reducing eliminating music, art, electives and media specialists will reduce expenses. It will also greatly impact the educational experience. Music and art are an important part of a well rounded education. For me electives were an important part of my education. I still use and remember the skills I learned in music, office skills, and home economics classes, can’t say that for many of my required classes especially science and math. In upper elementary school music classes where an oasis in what can best be described as an educational desert. From 4th-6th grade the only teacher who really expressed an interest in my academic success or even challenged me was my music teacher. Mrs. T’s class was on of my favorite places it was the one class where I was not judged because of my learning disabilities and ADHD. In high school electives and extra-curricular activities were my motivation to pass my other classes.
The idea of shortening the school week for elementary students is just mind boggling. First, the school day is shorter anyway. Second, they only have classes 4 1/2 days. There is barely enough time to cover the required subjects.
Florida has a large number of retired snow-birds who have fled from New York, New Jersey and other north eastern states to escape the winters and high taxes. They see no reason to support education in Florida; it is just one more reason to increase taxes. Their children are grown and still live in New Jersey and other north eastern states. Their grandchildren are getting a quality education at some of the better public schools in the country. Drastically cutting funding education does not effect them or at least not directly.
I am not necessarily a supporter of public education, guess I taught in public schools long enough to become jaded and cynical. However, what is happening in the Florida and Alachua County really concerns me. Public education is important and should be a priority. Teachers and students deserve support. Lowering standards and extreme budget cuts will eventually hurt the students and indirectly our future.