Today's news -- February 8, 2012


“If Florida has any desire to attract -- and keep -- talented professors in critical fields like science and math to keep the university system competitive with the rest of the country, removing tenure is hardly the way to show it. You can be sure changes that weaken autonomy and independence in tenure would be an incentive for established and promising professors to seek employment outside the state.”

-- South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial,0,6706565.story





Senate education budget in line with Scott, House

Florida lawmakers are closing in on a public school budget that will increase state spending by more than $1 billion next year. But despite the boost, total school funding will remain relatively flat in the coming 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. Critics point out that, while the increase may approach $193 per student, it only partially offsets the 8 percent education funding cut that lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott imposed last year, reducing per-pupil spending by $542. It also falls nearly more than $700 per student short of the peak funding levels that the state reached in the 2007-2008 budget year. On Tuesday, the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education PreK-12 advanced a plan to boost public school funding by $1.18 billion. The new budget will take effect July 1. That figure slightly exceeds the $1 billion requested by Scott and is $130 million above the House's school funding plan. Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, who oversees the public school budget in the Senate, called the Senate funding plan for the K-12 system "a tremendous commitment" to public schools "in a very tough time." The tough time includes absorbing the loss of $554 million in federal jobs funding, an increase of 31,000 new students and a $240 million decline in local property taxes. The Senate's proposal calls for an expenditure of $6,418 per student, compared with the $7,126 peak reached in 2008. Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, a member of the Senate school funding subcommittee, praised the budget. "Education is the winner," Detert said about the budget plans advancing in both chambers. But a spokesman for the Florida Education Association, a major teachers' union, said the proposals are only a modest improvement given the deep cuts the schools have faced over the past four years. "Even with this proposal, we're still going to be $800 or so behind in student funding," said Mark Pudlow. "After last year's budget cuts, we're heading in the right direction but nowhere near where we need to be to give every kid in Florida a high quality neighborhood school." Pudlow also said the increased funding would be partly offset by the costly requirement passed last year that linked teacher pay to student test scores. "They mandated all these tests on school districts but did nothing to finance it," he said.


Senate proposes 3 percent tuition hike for community colleges,0,1552155.story


Senate budget includes $129 million for tax breaks,0,1772997.story


On a Senate budget panel, fresh signs of discord


Number of public school employees declines

The number of employees in Florida's public schools has declined. The state Department of Education reports there were 318,000 full-time employees at the start of the current school year. That's a nearly two percent decline compared to the previous year. Instructional staff, including teachers, counselors and librarians, accounted for 60 percent of all employees. The number of teachers declined by 1,400. Support staff saw the largest drop. The number of aides, secretaries and other support employees declined by more than 4,000. Schools across the state and nation have trimmed their payrolls in light of continuing budget cuts in recent years.


What's slowing student achievement in Pinellas? Everybody has a theory (Kim Black quoted)


Pinellas School Board steers tax renewal to November ballot (PCTA mentioned)


Pasco County school calendar on hold (Lynne Webb quoted)


Don't punish teachers for cancelled school day (Joe Vitalo quoted)


Palm Beach teachers union endorses for superintendent (Debra Wilhelm quoted)


Broward School Board adopts plan to keep class sizes down,0,5453413.story


Pasco County schools worried about class sizes


Bills to revamp high school sports spark debate


Bill to make student Board of Governors member appointed by governor moves ahead


Shared sacrifice?


Students continue push for in-state tuition


Miami-Dade college president deems budget allocation process unfair


New College, UF rank high for value,0,7200963.story


Sunshine laws raise the stakes in USF Poly search for new regional chancellor


AFT extends partnership with AAUP in higher education (Randi Weingarten quoted)


Haridopolos: Privatization of prisons would die in showdown

Senate President Mike Haridopolos said Tuesday that a hotly debated plan to privatize prisons in 18 South Florida counties would die in a tie vote, if he allowed a showdown on it now. That's why he's letting the issue languish on second reading on the Senate calendar until at least next week. Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott and other proponents will try to pry loose at least one vote by emphasizing the "water balloon process" of the budget -- any impact on one point must ripple through everything else. "I know how to count votes; it's literally 20-20 and so, until we have a firm understanding on that (prison privatization), we're going to have to take that money ... from other parts of the budget," Haridopolos said. "So that means we might have to take a little bit more from schools or health care or other benefits packages for state employees. You never know. Everything is on the table, when people can't make tough decisions on one issue." Everyone knows the vote is extremely close. Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, the leading opponent, said last week his "killer" amendment would have passed, if a vote was taken then. Fasano's amendment would require a year-long fiscal analysis of potential costs and benefits. He objected to turning state-owned buildings over to private companies. Haridopolos last week removed Fasano as chairman of the Senate budget subcommittee overseeing prisons. Fasano not only opposed the policy, but publicly stated that privatizing was a payback to GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, which contribute heavily to legislative campaigns and political parties -- particularly Republicans. Across the Capitol, the American Civil Liberties Union presented nationally recognized experts on criminology to denounce the whole concept of privatization. "The way the Florida bill has been handled is typical -- big, for-profit companies have great influence and usually get what they want without a real examination of the consequences," said Tracy Velazquez, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute in Washington.


Police union members thank senator for opposing jail privatization


Florida lets kids go without health care


Health care advocates to stage flash mob in Capitol today


Senate bill could cut hourly wages of servers, bartenders,0,6389332.story


Senate delays decision on redistricting


Scott says he’s spoken with congressional members about redistricting plan


Ethics shortage in Florida Senate


Scott rejecting rail puts Florida at caboose


Florida property tax cut proposal dies in committee


Right-to-work laws won’t bring back manufacturing

Peddling poverty myths\


Talks stall on how to pay for extending payroll tax cut


Job openings jump to near a three-year high


Ban on insider trading faces GOP revisions




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