Last Thursday, our county was host to our State Senator Ben Albritton and State Representative Cary Pigman. Our two representatives opened themselves up to feedback on the actions that have been taken by the Florida Legislature.

Various government officials gave their input and the needs of the county, which included more money for infrastructure on our roads and our sewage system. But as a high school student, what concerned me the most was the lack of funding for our county’s schools.

Superintendent Brenda Longshore informed the board of the places they were lacking a massive amount of money. These areas included mental health programs, new buses, and most importantly, full-time teachers. These three areas are crucial to our county’s education system and need to be filled to ensure a high quality education in our county. Should this money not arrive, Highlands County could soon fall behind when it comes to the quality of our education.

The matter of the fact is, our School Board can only do so much with the funding they have. The biggest example of this is the teacher shortage our county is facing.

Superintendent Longshore stated at the meeting that Highlands County has 37 long-term substitutes teaching classes. This is a serious issue hitting us close to home, yet, The School Board of Highlands County cannot fix this problem without the proper funds. There is simply not enough money to pay qualified teachers a full-time salary in order to solve this serious problem. While sure, these substitutes will try their absolute best to ensure these children get the best education they possibly can; but only a certified teacher can help these students get the best out of their education.

Another area that Dr. Longshore pointed out as needing funding is campus safety. Longshore stated that Highlands County schools paid $1.5 million last year in order to tighten security, but only received $440,000 from the State of Florida. These two areas of our schools are non-negotiable in terms of funding. These deserve every dollar that is necessary, as it involves the safety of Highlands County students and their education for their lives after high school.

As a high school student, I completely support Superintendent Longshore’s fight for school funding. We cannot allow our county to be underfunded, which would in turn lower the quality of education of Highlands County schools.

Multiple states whose schools are suffering from low funding did not have all of their funding removed at once. It was a steady decline in the stream of funds until they were left with nothing. These are schools with no extracurricular activities and barely enough money to purchase textbooks.

If this is the beginning of that decline, then Highlands County may sadly see this become reality. Highlands County needs to urge the State Legislature to take Superintendent Longshore seriously and increase the amount of funding to our schools. We need every dollar we can get in order to ensure our students, including myself, receives a high quality education in a safe campus.

Miguel Arceo is a student athlete at Sebring High School.

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