St. Lucie Public Schools (SLPS) has experienced unprecedented academic achievement over the last four years. This success is not due to just having people in place – it is due to having the RIGHT people in the RIGHT place. High quality, highly trained teachers dedicated to helping all students achieve and learn in safe and caring environments have supported the District’s rise to a B rated district with no failing schools. Likewise, their influence has helped catapult SLPS from 45th to the State’s top ten in graduation rate (96.5% for comprehensive high schools) and from the bottom third to Florida’s top third in overall academic performance.
This is great news for our students, for our citizens, and for our community. To keep this positive momentum going, we need to keep our high-quality teachers in our schools. To do this, we must remain competitive with other districts. It is also vital to maintain safety with the assurance of a school resource officer on every campus and the ability for our staff to meet the mounting mental health needs of our students. Like no other time in history, children of all ages are coming to school with issues and challenges that necessitate our attention.
That’s why SLPS is appealing to St. Lucie County (SLC) voters to support a one mill referendum. Twenty other counties have already passed similar referendums in the past year. Voters will receive a mail-in ballot on or about April 3rd asking for a vote to raise teacher pay in order to recruit and retain high quality teachers, improve school safety with a school resource officer in every school, expand mental health services for our children, and preserve important programs.
So, what does this investment in our future amount to? The average taxable value to single family homes and condos is about $8.50 per month. Every penny of this four-year levy will remain in SLC, and a Citizens Advisory Committee will be established to guarantee that every dollar is spent as intended.
Without voter support, we face a daunting challenge. Neighboring counties offer more attractive salary benefits. Depending on years of service, a teacher can drive to Martin or Palm Beach County and earn $1,000 to $10,000 more per year than they currently earn as a teacher in SLPS. There is a national teacher shortage, and SLPS cannot afford to lose a single teacher to another district. Our children are our most precious resource who stand to benefit the most from high performing teachers. They deserve nothing less than quality educators delivering quality instruction every day.
This need is urgent. Despite the rhetoric in Tallahassee, there is no guarantee that things will change. In a recent report on average teacher salaries published by the National Education Association, Florida just dropped from 45th to 46th in the country. That’s a move in the wrong direction, and this slip in an already abysmal national standing is yet another testament to the fact that education is sorely underfunded.
A quality education system supports the entire community. A successful referendum will benefit our children, our teachers, our safety, and our future.
To learn more, visit https://www.stlucie.k12.fl.us/cast-your-vote/
Superintendent E. Wayne Gent proudly serves as the Superintendent of St. Lucie Public Schools – a B rated District with no failing schools — where he has led unprecedented academic growth launching the District into the State’s top ten for graduation rate and top third for academic achievement.