(Photo by Tiffany Szerpicki.)

By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Congrats to Florida educators.

Great job — although you might not get to keep it.

Education Week came out with its annual ranking of schools this week. And Florida — sit down, folks — came in fifth.

Not five-oh. Five. We’re right up there with the Marylands and Massachusetts of the world.

Just four years ago, in the 2008 study, we were 14th. And we’ve moved up steadily since then.

Many of the kudos for that strong, steady improvement have gone to former Gov. Jeb Bush, who has focused so intently on education throughout his political career. He gave us the FCAT, which obviously helped as far as student scoring on standardized tests. And that increased mastery of standardized tests is strongly reflected in the EdWeek rankings.

But wait. The big improvement in the EdWeek rankings actually happened during the term of former Gov. Charlie Crist, who most noticeably gave us the veto of a Republican bill that would have tied teacher pay to student gains and ended tenure for teachers.

And let’s not forget that some of the positives cited for Florida in the study, such as class-size reduction, came from voters, not politicians.

Regardless, congrats to both former governors.

But the biggest props should go to educators, particularly teachers. “Teaching profession” received the highest ranking for Florida — fourth.

And that’s despite the fact that Florida’s worst showing — 31st — was in “school finance.”

So our teachers are producing big results despite getting shafted by the state.

These professionals deserve our thanks. And a raise.

Instead, they’re likely to face a fight for their jobs.

That’s because Crist is gone. And the man in the Governor’s Mansion would not only gladly sign the bill that Crist vetoed, he’d go much further.

Gov. Rick Scott wants to voucherize the state. Basically spread public school money out among all schools. Private, public, religious, secular.

Imagine what would happen to already-strapped public schools if they lost a big chunk of their financing to private schools that don’t have to take difficult students or provide specialized curriculum.

Of course, now that there’s such good news about the direction of the state’s public education system, the Republicans running our state face a conundrum:

How do you tear apart something that seems to be working?

Make that question No. 2011 on the legislative FCAT.

See how EdWeek ranked Florida’s education system against the ones in other states:

And tell us what you think about Florida’s public education system in the comments below.