Investing in Equity for Miami-Dade Schools

The education budget crisis in Miami is a multifaceted issue that requires urgent attention and innovative solutions in order to ensure the success and well-being of all students in the region. At the heart of this crisis lies a lack of adequate funding. In turn, this leads to high rates of teacher turnover and vacancies, overcrowded classrooms, outdated facilities, and limited access to technology and learning materials.

The chronic underfunding and disparities in resources in Miami-Dade schools have hampered the ability of schools to provide quality education, resulting in inadequate maintenance of the buildings, outdated technology, and insufficient support services for students and staff. Miami-Dade is set to run out of pandemic funds before the 2024-2025 school year, and coupling this with funding limitations from current policies and laws, many schools are feeling the sharp pinch of economic burdens, especially teachers. With an abysmal starting salary of $40,000, teachers in these schools have been grappling with inflation and the high cost of living with equally-elevated levels of burnout and turnover, further straining an already fragile education system.

Recent laws and policies are also affecting the ability for schools to support and educate students.

Here is a look at some of the current conversations around the state of education in Miami-Dade County.

  • In 2023, Governor Ron Desantis signed HB 1 into law to expand taxpayer-funded school vouchers to private education. Supporters believe this will give families more choice over where their children go to school. Critics called it “welfare for affluent families” and risk severely underfunding the public school system. Early results show that the majority of students who obtained a voucher were already enrolled in private schools. 
  • Another bill on the horizon to make waves for Florida students is HB 931, a ruling allowing uncredentialed chaplains to provide student-support services in schools such as counseling and other mental health support. Other than potential interfaith issues that could arise, there is already pushback in the Florida Senate about the legitimacy and training capabilities of chaplains to do such work.
  • There is legislature in Miami-Dade county that imposes “impact fees” onto developers building new projects. These fees are meant to “offset the impact” of the new development and can go to supporting public services like road repair, libraries, park preservation, and school funding. The Miami-Dade County Commission (MDCC) has not increased the impact fees going towards public schools since 1995. Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law is starting to impact schools’ abilities to perform routine services and celebrate different backgrounds and identities in school settings. 
  • A new Florida law has the state’s largest public employee union facing extinction, impacting the contracts and rights of many Miami-Dade school teachers and staff.

  • There is an exodus of students happening within the county, with several schools experiencing drastically low enrollment rates in their respective histories. This has prompted critical discussions on how to rectify the issue, from program expansion and conversion, to razing existing buildings to create on-campus housing built for teachers and school staff.

Improving the education system in Miami-Dade is possible. Policymakers must start to prioritize equitable investments in schools for all children and school communities. And to do that, we need equity-minded leaders working within and influencing the system towards more equitable policies and laws.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can be one of those people, connect with Annie Warshaw about your potential path to elected leadership; and Ali Khaleel if you want to expand your abilities to organize, advocate, and/or advance equitable policies.

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