Op-Ed

To recruit, and keep, great teachers, pay them fairly

Rojas
Rojas

As a teacher and a former principal in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), I have seen firsthand the commitment our teachers have to ensure our students are successful learners and become productive citizens in our society.

This month, I sponsored Agenda Item H-3, unanimously co-sponsored and overwhelmingly approved by the Board. It reaffirms our commitment to teacher recruitment and retention strategies as outlined in the Board-approved 2017 State Legislative Package, the 2017 Florida Governor’s Recommended Budget, and the superintendent’s assurance to explore and recommend legislative solutions to Florida’s Value Added Model (VAM), a system associated with how teachers are evaluated and compensated annually.

Educators and parents know that maintaining a high-quality teaching force has proven to be a foundation tied to improving student achievement, a clear goal of the M-DCPS School Board. However, shortages in the teaching force have been growing across the country, this state, and our school district, and in cases, reaching crisis proportions in teaching fields such as mathematics, science, English, elementary education, and special education.

Teachers who leave the profession prematurely hurt student learning and cost taxpayers. Recruiting and retaining excellent teachers is especially urgent in schools serving concentrations of low-income students because teacher attrition disproportionately impacts schools.

We are also facing a very competitive market in recruiting high quality teachers in South Florida. We are facing some important facts that the educational community must deal with in order to ensure our students have the very best teachers we can find in our classrooms.

Let’s summarize these factors. Health insurance premiums continue to rise, in part due to medical spending, and leading to workers taking on a greater share of the costs. As a result, our teachers, and in fact all of our employees, have seen higher deductibles and co-payments, as well as felt the financial impact of overall higher health costs. Additionally, we are well aware of the continuous “upward” movement of real estate in South Florida. We know and are well aware of the high cost of the rental market in the area, adding to other factors to contend with as we recruit teachers for our school district. And let’s not forget the debt aspect and the high payments of student loans.

I am sure we can all remember a teacher, or many teachers, who touched our lives; teachers who broke into our minds and ignited our imagination with an enthusiasm for the subject and for all the learning that occurred. Teachers who were passionate and showed incredible love for students; and those who had tremendous affection for the subject being taught. Those who lived teaching and those who just simply loved to teach.

As a community, we must engage all stakeholders and elected officials in understanding the value of the teaching profession. We must all join together, unified, working to ensure that our teachers are properly compensated. The future of our society depends on our teaching force.

Our students deserve only the best and I know that the School Board and superintendent are just as committed as I am in ensuring that we recruit and retain the most qualified teachers for our students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Just imagine a world filled with teachers who know that what they do will make a difference, strive consciously to make that difference each day, and are valued and compensated in a way that reflects their life-long impact.

Mari Tere Rojas represents District 6 on the Miami-Dade County School Board.

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