TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Education Association (FEA) delivered the following letter from FEA President Andrew Spar to Gov. Ron DeSantis today.
The short-term decision made to maintain education funding as it was designed in the 2020-21 General Appropriations Act (GAA) was one critical step toward reopening Florida’s public schools. We continue to have grave concerns about safety, but the vetoes you made and those that you rejected gave school districts a start on the consistency they need to plan for the entire school year.
Our state’s economic fortune depends on a strong educational system, and funding stability is critical for the continuity of our students’ progress. Right now, we see our school districts are struggling to make school-year decisions to keep our classrooms staffed with experienced teachers and support staff, and to provide consistent programs and services for the fiscal year. We see significant increases in the number of resignations, retirements and leave requests, along with unpredictable shifts in student enrollment throughout the state and the many instructional models available to them.
We believe a full school-year approach would assist districts in achieving the goal of retaining and hiring the personnel needed to staff the various ways we are educating students, and are calling upon you to continue to allow reporting flexibility and financial continuity as outlined in the Emergency Order – 06 (section III, a, b and c) through the end of this fiscal year (June 30, 2021), including the February student survey. Additionally, we are calling on you to guarantee the funding levels for our PreK-12 schools and higher education institutions in the appropriations act you signed for the remainder of this fiscal year. Districts are extremely concerned about possible cuts to this year’s budget and are holding back spending in preparation.
Senate President Bill Galvano has stated: “In total, the series of challenging decisions made by the governor and Legislature has placed our state in a position where we presently have the security of significant, unused state reserves, as well as the availability of federal CARES Act funding, to offset substantial pandemic-related costs.” You also have reassured the public that our state is well-positioned for recovery. A guarantee from you and continued flexibility will be a significant step in creating stability and certainty in our school districts. It will bring stability for our students and their families and allow districts to concentrate on providing excellent services to the parents and students who depend on our schools, without the uncertainty that would surely accompany any midyear disruption of programs and staff.
This action would make a strong statement about the importance of education and the extraordinary impact of educational opportunity as a driver of our state’s economic stability. We urge you to act immediately.
President, Florida Education Association
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with 150,000 members. FEA represents PreK-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.