Report: Florida education system struggling nationally

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A new study finds that current students in Florida are less likely to get college degrees than their peers in other states, and also less likely than older generations were.

The study, conducted by the Leroy Collins Institute in Tallahassee, also shows that K through 12 funding is lagging behind the rest of the country.

Many have ideas for how to improve the education system, make sure that students have the proper resources to receive a comparable education to their peers nationwide, and ensure that the state of Florida has the best teachers K through 12, all areas the study says Florida is lacking.

But Trey Csar, with the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, says that there is no simple solution.

"There is never a simple solution. Money isn't a simple solution, policy changes isn't a simple solution," Csar said.

"It is a multifaceted and complex long term solution, but that doesn't make it any less important. It is fundamental to the future of our city and our state."

Csar says that even though the new report shows that the state's education system needs improvement, in the last 10 years, the graduation rate in Duval county has seen a 16 point increase.

He says that with the diverse population of Florida, it can be more expensive to provide a public education.

"We know that it costs more to educate low income students, second language students. In Florida, we have a lot of those students. We know it costs a lot of money to educate special needs students, and we have a lot of those. Money alone doesn't fix anything."

The report says that teacher pay in Florida still falls short of much of the rest of the country, which Dr. Jim Dewey, who helped conduct the research, can causes teachers to look for jobs in other states.

"What I think happens is that it gets harder and harder to recruit high quality, younger teachers," Dewey said. "My guess is that we are losing out on the better younger teachers to other states and other occupations."

And Csar agrees.

"We know that you can't have a high quality education without great teachers. We have to compensate our teachers more effectively than we currently do" Csar said"

Many say that the problems at the lower education levels help compound the problems at the higher education levels

"They all reinforce each other. You put together a whole bunch of things that, by themselves, might be manageable and have modest consequences, and it turns into an immovable object," Dewey said.

Csar also said that to fix the problem, it will take a large group effort of political leaders, business leaders, community leaders, parents, and educators all working together to improve the education system.

He says that in turn would have a positive impact on all of the other industries in Florida.

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