Opinion: “Shevrin Jones: The power of public schools”

We’re failing our educators and our kids by not paying them enough to make ends meet.

As a product of Florida public schools and former educator in Broward County, I hold education and our local teachers close to my heart. I’m a firm believer that public education is the foundation of a strong, 21st-century democracy through which our students are given keys to the world before them.

Ninety percent of Florida kids attend public schools, and every single one deserves the resources needed to prepare our young people to contribute positively to society.

Our public schools teach children how to think critically, problem-solve, and build relationships that they will carry throughout their lives. Strong public schools have the power to provide an environment where all students can succeed beginning in their earliest years, regardless of who they are or where they live.

None of this is possible without dedicated educators.

Teachers have the power to shape young minds and empower their students to dream about what’s possible. Teachers can make or break a child’s future based on their approach with that child and their passion for their subject. Our teachers and professionals make Florida’s public schools a vital component of local communities across the state.

I join the Florida Parent Teacher Association in declaring this “Public Schools Week” in recognition of the important role our schools play for not just the Florida of today, but the Florida of tomorrow.

Our students today are our future entrepreneurs, community leaders, and elected officials, and it’s up to each of us to do our part when it comes to providing a quality education for all students.

Parents and communities from Pensacola to the Keys are working hard to improve educational outcomes for children across the state.

Together, we can strengthen Florida’s public schools and empower local education leaders to manage and lead school districts in partnership with educators, parents, and other local stakeholders and learning communities.

Local and state lawmakers have key roles to play. It’s imperative that we support efforts to advance equity and excellence in public education and to implement continuous improvement and evidence-based practices. Beyond those important components, we must also support counseling, extracurricular activities, and mental health supports that are critical to help students engage in learning.

For me, this is deeply personal.

Before entering public service, I taught AP Chemistry in Broward County Public Schools. Today, I work closely with the Florida Reading Corps, an early, evidence-based intervention program that helps get children reading by the third grade. I’ve seen the real-life impact when kids do not receive the support they need.

That support includes paying our educators what they are worth.

We’re failing our educators and our kids by not paying them enough to make ends meet. I’ve talked to countless teachers who paid — out of their own pockets — for supplies for their classrooms. They don’t do this because they are looking to do a good deed or want a pat on the back. They do these selfless acts out of necessity.

They are literally invested in our kids’ futures — so why aren’t we investing in them?

We must address funding if we want to compete. We must do better — not just for our teachers, but also support staff who do so much in our neighborhood schools.

All kids — regardless of ZIP code — deserve to be on a path that gives them a chance to succeed. Doing so will only foster opportunity and innovation right here in South Florida, and ensure our workforce is well-equipped for a growing, diverse economy. Doing so just makes sense.

We are proud to stand with and support the parents, educators, and students of Florida.

Every child has the right to an education that helps them reach their full potential and to attend schools that offer a safe, high-quality educational experience.


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