Lopez is a Florida-certified educator teaching senior high school mathematics & an adult education instructional coach for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. He is a 34-year resident of Coral Gables.
Education is a social catalyst and equalizer, bringing individuals personal benefits in the form of career advancement, increased employment opportunities and income, and skills development, all of which directly translate into economically healthier and stable communities, a competitive and better educated workforce, higher paying jobs, diversification of industries, lower crime, greater equality, and a road map for a brighter future for all of its residents. Economists have clearly demonstrated the major economic returns in salaries for educated and skilled communities. Miami-Dade County is not exempt from the latter, as our highly diverse community will benefit from a continued investment in one of the pillars of a community; education.
The School Board Referendum in our upcoming November 8th election is asking our community to once again step up in support of education and respond affirmatively to a continuation of an ad valorem assessment for the period commencing July 1, 2023, through June 30th, 2027. The initial ad valorem assessment referendum passed on November 6, 2018, with an approval of 71.14% of all voters. Since its passage, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, with oversight by a citizen advisory committee, has utilized the proceeds for teachers and instructional personnel compensation, enhanced safety and security for students, faculty and community who are stakeholders in our public schools and educational facilities. Two reports issued by the advisory committee have provided assurances that the school district has complied with its fiduciary responsibilities and that all funds are being utilized as per commitments made to the voters. Additionally, many successes have been attained.
An affirmative vote for the referendum, one that includes charter schools as well, is not just about a continuation of increased teachers and instructional personnel compensation, enhanced schools safety and security for all students, faculty and community stakeholders. It is a vote for an investment in the present and future of our community’s education, one that has, since 2018, seen the need to identify supplemental revenue sources resulting from underfunded statutory mandates and Miami-Dade’s high cost of living, an impediment to recruiting, hiring and retaining quality educators for our schools. The referendum could be seen as another effort by a taxing authority to tax and spend, however, the short and long-term benefits of an affirmative vote for the referendum far outweigh any possible perceived negatives.
The realities of disruptions caused in our nation’s and community’s education system by the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be overlooked, as it has left a mark on student learning and well-being. Overnight, our homes became classrooms and virtual classes became the norm. Virtual classes, our only available option during the pandemic, served a purpose, however, they fell short when compared to the presence of a qualified educator in an academically conducive environment, a classroom.
The lingering effects and fallout from the pandemic are still present, despite being feverishly addressed by all educators in America. Learning and skills losses, missing key building blocks of learning, changes in student behaviors and mindset and overall mental health are some of the challenges our educators are facing as they strive to have our students recover lost ground. The impact has also been inequitable, as some groups have been disproportionately affected. Students of color and low-income students, demographics which are well-represented in our community, have been impacted the most. Unfinished learning, a reference to academic lag, is very real.
As an educator who weathered the “Covid-19 Educational Storm”, teaching virtual and hybrid (virtual and in-person) classes for extended periods of time, working with all students, some of which did not have the quiet and peace of an academic environment, reliable internet service and/or privacy in their makeshift virtual classes at home, and ultimately, and happily, returning to fully in-person classes, I have witnessed first-hand, the impact of the pandemic in our community education. If there is a time when our community must respond with an “all hands on deck” support of a referendum, it is this one and now.
I write this, as I have seen, firsthand, the value and power of an education in my life and person since my arrival in Miami as a political refugee in 1961. My personal and professional successes can be directly attributed to the public education I received in my K-12 years and the higher education earned with the assistance of government loans. As a member of this growing, dynamic and diverse community, I ask for your consideration in joining me and voting in support of the School Board Referendum, one that will afford all children and adults in our community wishing to improve their quality of life and societal contribution through education, the same opportunity I was given by our public education system. This is not only about a raise for teachers and safety and security for our schools. It is also about our community’s educational future and economic sustainability.