Add sincerity to your shopping cart, Scott
Published: Sunday, August 28, 2011
Updated: Sunday, August 28, 2011 19:08
On a sunny Friday afternoon, I, along with some of my colleagues, waited at a local Walmart to meet Gov. Rick Scott. His purpose in visiting the super store was twofold: first, to commemorate the back-to-school tax exempt holiday, and second to find himself some good media coverage. This is something that he desperately needs, as seen by his 35 percent approval rating.
And so, the governor entered Walmart with shopping cart in tow; and as he began to toss school items into his blue cart, it suddenly dawned on me how much of a charade this entire event was. Our governor, who was casually shopping for school supplies, is the same governor who made severe cuts to public education. In fact, his preference is to cut funding to $5,500 per student, which would put Florida last in per-pupil funding. There's also the issue of vouchers, titled "Education Savings Accounts;" Scott's voucher program will directly give $5,000 to parents so they can choose which schools — public or private — to send their children to. It should be noted that the Florida Supreme Court already ruled this type of voucher system to be unconstitutional in Bush v. Holmes, which means our tax dollars are being wasted pursuing an unconstitutional cause.
As if the cuts to K-12 schools weren't bad enough, Scott is now targeting higher education with dramatic reform policies modeled after those championed by another Rick: Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. These reforms are extreme, to say the least. They change the way professors are paid, going as far to consider tying professor pay to how many students they teach and how much research money they bring in. The plan also moves a professor's pay toward a merit-paid system with limits on tenure.
The main goal behind Scott's higher education reforms is to save the state money and bolster professor productivity; and yet, the notion that this will actually improve a professor's performance has yet to be seen as true. However, the detrimental consequences of implementing these policies are very real.
To begin with, tying a professor's salary to class size endangers the future of programs like the Burnett Honors College and other similar programs that cater to higher-performing students. These colleges offer small class sizes to their students, but if a professor's pay is synced to their class size, what incentive does a professor have to teach a small honors class? If such programs are lost due to a lack of professors wanting to teach them, then high performing students will leave Florida in search of better programs – and at this point, who could blame them?
Let's just say if these reforms were to go into action, then we would see the creation of larger and larger class sizes, which would save the state money in the sense that fewer professors will need to be hired. Saving money is always a good thing, but what about the quality of education we as students would be receiving? With tuition prices as high as they are right now, I expect a high-quality education that fits the price tag. What I don't want is a university that treats its students like numbers. This is a university, not a diploma mill.
Even State Sen. Thad Altman (R-Melbourne) agrees. In a recent interview, the senator said, "We're not manufacturing widgets here – we're trying to give our students a world-class education."
And if you're modeling a university after a business, world-class education does not become the top priority – money does.
I find it incredibly ironic how our governor preaches for small government yet encourages big government policies within our schools. This is why at Walmart, as he held school supplies in his hand, I held a pink slip – one that I flashed in his face as I told him I was a college student who could barely afford her education. Soon thereafter, I was kicked out of the store, along with many others.
Our governor does not want to fix public education, he wants to destroy it. And as students who vote, it is our job in the next election to decide which direction we want this state to move in. And if you're like me, I would prefer to keep moving forward.