October 14, 2021

Lizette Alvarez: Florida teachers are quitting their jobs in droves — and who can blame them?

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At the Washington Post, Lizette Alvarez looks at the pressures on Florida teachers.

Gretchen Robinson, who teaches intensive reading at an Orlando public high school, told me she walked into Costco six weeks ago and did something she once thought unimaginable: She bought two boxes of masks for her students. Her school, which requires masks in defiance of Florida’s governor, kept running short, so she has added biweekly mask-buying to her lengthy list of new pandemic-related teaching duties.

Teachers’ work is sacred. It helps shape our children’s intellect, habits and attitudes. It is also sacrificial: The hours are ridiculously long, the bureaucracy is unyielding and the pay is insultingly low — particularly in Florida. The state ranked among the lowest in teachers salaries until this year when new teachers finally got raises and has seen housing costs jump considerably. The covid-19 pandemic — which spiked to its highest level in Florida this past summer — has made the demands even more exhausting.

“I don’t think those in power appreciate the worth of what we do,” said Robinson, a 20-year education veteran who teaches at University High School. “Everybody is double- and triple-timing it. I am having stress dreams about work, about the 17 hours a day we are routinely putting in.”

Certainly, the government has only made teachers’ lives harder. Robinson said she feels whipsawed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s antediluvian approach to the covid-19 virus. Sacrifice suddenly has its limits.

Two months ago, DeSantis (R) forbade school district administrators to require masks. Now, school boards that mandate them are being fined. They cannot force covid-exposed students to quarantine. And Florida almost lost out on $2.3 billion in federal aid for schools this fall because it was the only state that chose not to apply for the third round of covid relief. After a swift and loud outcry, the DeSantis administration reversed course on Thursday.

School boards, staff members and teachers across Florida say they feel their jobs put them in danger. They are worried about both covid’s stubborn persistence and angry parents who reject mask-wearing. A furious group of such parents showed up Monday outside the Sarasota school board chairwoman’s home, waving signs and chanting. One could be heard saying, “We see you in there, Shirley. We want you to come out for a redress of grievances. This is the line we will die on. Shirley, come out.”

Read the full piece here.

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