Governor Scott Signs State Budget

FEA President Andy Ford issued this statement on the state budget signed today by Gov. Rick Scott and its implication for public education: “The state budget passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott is a dismal failure to provide for the students who rely on the state to attain a high-quality education. Despite the governor’s claims that the increases in funding for education represent his commitment to our schools, he has failed to point out that this budget restores less than a third of what was cut from last year’s education budget and that our schools are still miles behind the funding levels in our state five years ago.


The 2012 session of the Florida Legislature provided an opportunity for Gov. Rick Scott and the leaders of the Florida House and Senate to make a real commitment to Florida’s public schools. But instead of a real investment in our children and in our future, Floridians saw more shenanigans, more tax giveaways and more attempts to degrade our neighborhood public schools.

 

The budget passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by the governor shows that Scott and the leadership of the state House and Senate are NOT committed to making a true investment in our children and their education. The budget shortchanges students from pre-K to college.

 

Scott is touting $1 billion in increases to the school budget. But despite this boost in spending, total school funding will not change much next year, as local school districts will have to use the added state money to make up for the loss of federal funding, an increase in enrollment and a drop in local property taxes. Since the budget was approved, officials at school districts throughout the state said they were considering layoffs of teachers and other school employees, curtailing arts programs and athletics for students. They’re faced with cutting their budgets for next year, increasing the pain already suffered over the past five years.

 

Scott, Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon have crowed that the boost in education funding shows their commitment to education. But they don’t want you to remember that they slashed education funding drastically last year. In this budget, per-pupil funding next year will still be $435 below last year and more than $700 below where it was four years ago. Scott and legislative leaders haven’t given one extra dime to pay for higher standards in our schools or all the new tests mandated by the Legislature last year. And this budget fails to cover the full cost of transportation, increases in insurance and health care costs and more.

 

This budget doesn’t address the real damage done to our schools over the past several years. It won’t replace the thousands of teacher and ESP jobs that were slashed after the last budget was passed in 2011. This budget won’t replace the lost programs for students that have had to be sacrificed in recent years. This budget helps cover the loss of emergency federal funding, the loss of property taxes because of lower property values and the expected increase of students during the next school year. But it won’t stop the loss of arts, music and athletic programs and larger class sizes.

 

The budget anticipates 30,000 more students in our public schools next year, but if the number is greater than that, school districts have little leeway to cover the costs. They’ll just have to whittle more away from their already threadbare coffers.

 

The budget the governor signed includes all sorts of tax breaks for businesses throughout the state. It includes a wide variety of special projects located in the legislative districts of the leaders of the House and Senate. The governor and top lawmakers had choices – and the chose their pals in the business community over our kids and public schools.

 

There’s also money in the budget for expanding charter schools and increasing money for corporate voucher schools. Here’s another example of political leaders favoring unproven and less accountable schools over our traditional neighborhood schools.

 

For the second year in a row, Florida's traditional K-12 public schools will not receive money from the state for school maintenance, repairs or renovations. All of the trust fund allocations in the K-12 arena will go to charter schools. Higher education will receive a very small portion.

 

We are also stumbling on our commitment to higher education, where a brain drain of our finest professors continues. Universities took a budget hit, which they will have to make up by charging students more for tuition. The universities lose $300 million in the budget: $150 million in appropriations and $150 million from reserves. Legislators are raiding the reserves to balance the budget.

 

Rick Scott and legislative leaders will bombard you with happy talk about their commitment to public education. But they haven’t even begun to clean up the mess they made last year. At a time when the governor and lawmakers doled out more tax giveaways for corporations, more money for unaccountable voucher schools and more support and freedom for for-profit charter schools, our public schools are given a budget far from adequate and far from a true investment in our children.

 

 

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