Since Amendment 9 will require the hiring of thousands of additional teachers across the state, some have suggested that the amendment might add to the difficulties of recruiting and retaining teachers. The opposite is true. As discussed on pages 9-10, class-size reduction enhances the ability of school districts to attract and retain quality teachers. While teacher pay is certainly an important factor in recruiting and retaining teachers, state Sen. Don Sullivan, R-St. Petersburg, noted earlier this year that the stresses of managing classrooms and keeping order are among the reasons why teachers leave the profession.109 The U.S. Department of Education has identified the link between smaller classes and improved teacher morale and satisfaction.110 This is backed up by Florida’s own data showing that smaller classes would strongly encourage former teachers to return to the classroom.111 This reminds us why it’s so important to take “crowd control” out of teachers’ job descriptions.
Attracting and retaining a quality teaching force is always important, and Florida must regularly evaluate and strengthen its efforts in this area. But to frame the debate as an ‘either-or’—smaller classes versus teacher retention—is a false and cynical choice. Our state cannot afford to choose one and ignore the other. Indeed, creating smaller classes is a logical and essential first step toward broader reform. Education researcher Alex Molnar has called class-size reductions “the necessary precondition” to education reform. “Then you follow up with staff development,” Molnar added.112