Miami Herald Letter: Florida makes strides in improving public education

Feb 2, 2010

The Miami Herald published this letter on February 2, 2010.

It is difficult to understand how The Miami Herald’s Jan. 28 editorial, Crist’s gamble on education, can say that Florida’s public schools have had “several years of diminishing returns” when by every measure Florida’s schools have made significant gains over the past decade.

Today, more than 71 percent of Florida’s third graders read at or above grade level, compared to 57 percent just eight years ago. On national tests (the National Assessment of Educational Progress) the percentage of students performing at or above grade level in reading and math has made double-digit gains since 2001.

Florida’s graduation rate has improved more than 6 percentage points in four years, with the largest gains among minority students. And just last month, Florida ranked eighth in the nation for Education Quality, a ranking that relies heavily on student achievement and school funding.

These results show that education funding is not the only yardstick for evaluating educational success.

Though I would argue that student success is the best way to measure our schools, I am proud to note that even during the most challenging economic periods, the Florida Legislature has placed the highest priority on funding Florida’s schools. Per-student funding has increased 43 percent, or more than $2,062 per student, during the past 10 years. That’s an average of $206 per student per year over the past decade.

I’m grateful that The Miami Herald recognizes the necessity of improving Florida’s system of paying teachers. The quality of the teacher in the classroom is the most important factor we can control in public schools. Excellence deserves recognition.

I agree with The Miami Herald that more needs to be done to reward outstanding teachers, and I plan to support efforts, once again, to do so during the upcoming legislative session.

But, as the achievement gains of Florida’s students would attest, it’s not only how much we spend that matters, how we spend it matters, too. By raising standards, demanding accountability and offering innovative opportunities, student achievement has improved significantly in recent years.

We still have a long way to go, but I’m confident that Florida’s schools are on the right path to ensuring that each child has the opportunity to earn a world-class education.

ANITERE FLORES, state representative, District 114, Miami