Gov. Jeb Bush and Education Commissioner Charlie Crist beat lawmakers to the punch last week. Before legislators and other lawmakers could debate with Bush about using phonics to teach Florida students how to read, Bush had already assured most elementary schools that they will have only phonics-based instruction beginning next year.
The way Bush went about initiating this plan seems very suspicious. The repercussions of this plan to improve reading have yet to be seen.
Using phonics has been a widely controversial plan for the improvement of reading throughout the United States. Education was expected to be an important part of the legislative agenda as it closes, but Bush has brought a halt to it all with his impromptu plan. Bush has named the plan, “Just Read, Florida.”
It’s about time something was done for education. Florida is notorious for having poor educational statistics.
According to the Florida Department of Education, 47 percent of fourth graders do not know how to read at their grade level. Also, Florida is 48th in the nation when it comes to graduating students who can read at their correct level. 67 percent of 10th graders could not read at grade level. Among eighth-graders, 57 percent were below their level
While teachers continue to be underpaid and hiring freezes are taking place all over Florida, the last thing that Bush did for education was increase educational funding by 1 percent.
Maybe improving the reading for more students will be more beneficial than upping funding by a miniscule 1 percent.
Charlie Crist has the final say as to what textbooks are sent to different schools around Florida.
As a result of Bush focusing on phonics to improve reading, Crist has created a list of approved elementary reading materials that includes only phonics and “phonemic awareness” teaching methods and textbooks.
“The obvious thing is, we need to address reading,” Crist said. “It’s obviously at the core of all learning.”
No kidding. Whatever it takes to help Florida students become better readers needs to be done.
Money should never be an object when it comes to the future of students. The same legislators that Bush disregarded when initiating the plan are the ones who will decide if they should give Bush $10 million for greater research into new teaching techniques.
The plan may backfire, but hopefully the legislators will realize that phonics, which has had great success at other school districts is better than small budget increases that do nothing to better our children’s education.
-Antione Davis for the Editorial Board.