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Editorial: Education statistics not so amazing

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s State of the State Address Tuesday targeted what he called “amazing” improvement in state schools during the past four years. However, several figures show alarming numbers of Florida children cannot read and that grades have not improved as Bush says they have.

Bush has proposed an approximate 1 percent increase in education funding, but this is hardly enough to compensate the cuts made during the past three years, culminating in a freeze in hiring teachers, the creation of larger classes and the elimination of summer school programs. Most politicians realize the importance of emphasizing education, especially during election years, as 2002 is. However, few politicians follow through in their efforts to improve schools and the quality of education.

With statistics such as 47 percent of fourth graders unable to read at their grade level, it is difficult to support the theory that Bush has helped schools as much as he thinks. Such statistics, in reading especially, show a great need for more teachers and better reading and instructional materials.

Teachers should be held accountable for not fulfilling their jobs, and punishment for schools that promote failing students is a good idea. However, punishment does not motivate well enough and is a poor tactic to encourage a class of professionals who are punished enough by low wages, disrespect and a lack of community and state support. Incentive programs for teachers and students alike would be effective and would also show appreciation for jobs well done.

Bush should reconsider his budget increase for education and should give more money to help bolster schools that are low on teaching staff and bogged down by large classrooms. Giving teachers the best and most tools they need to do their jobs ensures students receive a better and more effective education.