US News has released their "best states rankings." Click here to view the list.
"The Best States ranking of U.S. states draws on thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens. In addition to health care and education, the metrics take into account a state’s economy, the opportunity and quality of life it offers people, its roads, bridges, internet and other infrastructure, its public safety and the fiscal stability of state government."
Florida has been my favorite place to live but it's fair to say that it does fall short in some very important areas right now. These are areas we can work on to improve.
One area is education. At first glance, you see Florida ranks 7th in education. You may think "hey we're doing good, why the fuss?" Take a closer look. Florida ranks 1st in higher education, but 40th in pre-k through 12th. That is unacceptable. We must do better for our children. Ranking 1st in higher education demonstrates that we can do it if we work on the issues.
We need to eliminate common core and let our teachers have the freedom to teach in the manner that's best for their students. Teachers had more freedom in classrooms before to cater to their students. We need to recognize that not every student across Florida is going to learn the same. We need to trust our teachers to do what's best.
We need to properly fund our traditional public schools by moving away from charter schools. Charter schools can be great and they have a place in education. But we need to stop funding for profit charter schools with public funds. It strips funds away from traditional public schools. Our current system of taking away funding from schools with lower scores creates a vicious cycle. Schools that fail often need more resources, not less.
Florida ranks 34th in healthcare. With some amazing medical schools and medical research programs (such as Moffitt Cancer Center), we should be able to rank much higher. It is a disgrace that we rank 48th in healthcare access. Almost as shameful is ranking 34th in healthcare quality.
One issue in terms of access is more related to cost than availability of doctors. Florida is pretty good at keeping resident doctors in state. Many of the top ranking states for access have expanded Medicaid. Insurance in Florida is too expensive and inaccessible for those just above the strict Medicaid guidelines (more so than other states). We rank 4th in terms of uninsured individuals with a disturbingly high percentage of children not covered. This is an area we need to fix. Higher percentages of uninsured does lead to higher healthcare costs overall creating a vicious cycle.
With a high rate of uninsured, it means that many don't seek help until the condition is more advanced. This is one factor in the quality of our healthcare. Also a factor is if people cannot afford necessary procedures or treatments. Even for those with healthcare, co-insurance and deductibles are so high that many will put off visits until much later than they should. We need to curb healthcare costs and one way is to expand Medicaid. It has proven effective in other states.
This is another area that is deceptive. The rankings do not look at equality protections for the LGBTQA community. This is a major flaw. Florida does not provide any protections for the LGBTQA community.
The equality rankings also demonstrate a disparity in racial equality. While the rank for employment gap by race is high, the rank for income by race is low. Whether this is because the pay is not equal for equal work or there is a racial disparity in types of jobs, it is something we need to evaluate.
Ranking 36th in this category leaves a lot of room for improvement. We have high income inequality, low median income, and high food insecurity, average cost of living, and incredibly high housing cost.
Our high housing cost is one reason why we can't take funds that have already been appropriated for afdordable housing away from the cause. If those that have jobs (sometimes multiple jobs) can't afford a place to stay, a rise in homelessness accompanies it.
We need to gradually raise the minimum wage so that those who work are able to afford to live. Working 40 to 80 hours a week and still not being able to afford healthcare costs, housing, or food is not how we best care for Floridians. When people have a living wage, they do not require government assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid. It is in the best economic interest of the state and taxpayers to do this. When done gradually, the impact to small businesses is easier to manage.
Florida has a growing population. Who can blame people for wanting to move here? It's a beautiful state and the people are truly one of a kind. We have areas that need improvement but they are areas we can work on if we elect officials that have the good of Florida over special interests in mind. I envision a list in the next few years where Florida ranks at the top in every category. We can achieve it if we fight for what's right.