FORT LAUDERDALE/DAVIE, Fla. – The teacher shortage facing Florida, and the nation, is a tsunami that could have catastrophic consequences if it’s not addressed. There are numerous factors that come into play when looking at why people aren’t entering the teaching profession in the numbers they did just a generation or two ago.
To address one, Florida’s new Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed a bold move to change the state’s budget that would allow for “sizable bonuses” for highly rated teachers. We all know that since the one-room schoolhouse, people didn’t become teachers to get rich – it’s more of a calling than a job. But the fact remains that teachers have financial obligations and that salaries have proven to be quite the stumbling block when it comes to recruiting – and retaining – the best of the best.
As the dean of Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Abraham S. Fischler College of Education, I have seen first-hand how people who may have wanted to earn their degrees so they can enter our classrooms are having second thoughts. In talking with today’s college students, the love and desire to be a teacher is still there, however, the reality is they know they could follow other career paths that would certainly be more lucrative in terms of salary.
This move by the governor is welcome news, but it’s just one step of many that are needed to restore the teaching profession to one that is respected and honored across the country.
We must do more to provide support for teachers that goes beyond just salary increases and bonuses. We need to properly fund schools so teachers are not forced to ask families to help pay for classroom supplies or worse, pay for those supplies out of their own pockets. We must work to value our teachers and not reduce them to simply data points on a graph based solely on how students perform on standardized tests. The era of testing, testing, testing is starting to wane, so teachers can concentrate more on the art of teaching and reaching every student rather than simply preparing them to take an exam.
The governor’s plan also includes tuition forgiveness if the teacher commits to their job for five years. Going hand in hand with that must be the support and mentoring that is needed to ensure teachers remain in the profession. Study after study has shown that more than 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years, with many citing the lack of support as a major factor. It is a great first step to offer to relieve teachers of their tuition debt if they commit to teaching for five years, but we cannot simply turn them loose in a classroom and expect them to succeed. If they commit to us, we must, in turn, commit to them.
I applaud our new governor for taking such bold moves related to education in our state, and I hope that there are more great ideas coming from his office the next few years in order to return the teaching profession to a position of honor and respect. It was once said that, if not for teachers, no other profession would exist. It’s time we remember that.
Kimberly Durham, Psy.D.
Dean, Nova Southeastern University
Abraham S. Fischler College of Education
About the Author: Kimberly Durham, Psy.D, is Dean of the Abraham S. Fischler College of Education at Nova Southeastern University. She has spent more than 20 years developing and overseeing human services, criminal justice, and health related research, academic programs, curriculum, and clinical programs. Prior to her role at the Fischler College, she served as Chair of the Department of Justice and Human Services within NSU’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Durham has served on numerous academic and community councils, boards, and committees throughout her professional career, and has served as Community Liaison for all NSU clinics for 15 years. In collaboration with community partners, she has facilitated a number of initiatives aimed at easing the transition to civilian life for returning military veterans and their families, including NSU’s Veterans Resource Center.
Nova Southeastern University fully supports an individual’s right to express their viewpoint and opinions. The views expressed in this guest editorial are that of Kimberly Durham, Psy.D., Dean of Nova Southeastern University’s Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and are not necessarily those of NSU, its President or Board of Trustees.