[UPDATE] Governor Scott's Budget Plan to Cut $3 Billion in Education

By: Jill Chandler; Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida Email
By: Jill Chandler; Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida Email

UPDATE 2/10/11 4:10pm by Jill Chandler

Educators from the state of Florida have been reacting to Governor Rick Scott's budget proposal all week, and that includes those in local education.

Governor Scott announced his budget plan on Monday. The plan calls for more than $3 billion dollars worth of cuts to education.

Superintendent Jackie Pons said they don't know how they would be able to cut even more and still keep the same academic standards. In the past two years the Leon County School district has already cut $50 million dollars.

Leon County Superintendent Jackie Pons said, "We did what we had to do, and we kept our system strong. Now it's time for the legislature to do what they need to do to protect our children. And to protect the future of our state."

The budget plan will now go to legislator to be modified. Educational leaders in Tallahassee will be getting together Friday to discuss the impact of education on jobs, the economy, and preparing for future budget cuts.

Presidents from FAMU, FSU and TCC will be there as well as superintendent Pons. Pons said they hope by rallying together, legislators will see the importance of education in the Tallahassee community, and the state as a whole.

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UPDATE 2/8/11 6:12pm by Jill Chandler

Higher education leaders are sounding off about Governor Rick Scott's budget plan. The governor announced his plans for 2011 through 2013 yesterday and it includes a $3 billion dollar cut to education.

Yesterday's budget proposal has been the topic of conversation since it was announced. For Universities, who have already cut back on their budget, learning they may be short millions more is troubling news.

FAMU President James Ammons said, "There is deep concern in terms of what our budget is going to look like during these economic times."

In Governor Scott's proposed budget, he is not taking stimulus money to fund education. This means almost 8 Million dollars will not be readily available for Florida A & M.

The stimulus money was given out on a ratio, more students equaling more money. In Scott's plan, there will also be no non-recurring money coming in. Leaving FAMU with almost $15 million dollars less than they had this past year.

Students on FAMU's campus also worry about cuts to education.

"You're affecting the young minds of our society, you're affecting our future, when you cut from education,"said Jarell Baker, a sophomore at FAMU.

FAMU Student Body Vice President Breyon Love believe stimulus money is the answer. He said, "If we want to preserve our academic programs and our faculty we need to get those stimulus dollars or at least some funding for higher education."

President Ammons hopes the legislature takes into consideration the role of the state university system in Florida when they look at Scott's proposed budget.

"The higher education system is the key to economic development and we must have the resources that we need to educate this next generation of leaders for the state of Florida, the nation and the world," said President Ammons.

President Ammons said it's too early to say where the university would cutback if their budget got slashed by millions.

Governor Rick Scott did not propose an increase tuition for higher education, and that is one thing students and administrators across Florida are happy about.

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THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, February 7, 2011 --

Florida’s public schools and universities will take a more than $3 billion hit under the budget proposed Monday by Gov. Rick Scott, with public elementary through high school spending dropping by nearly $300 per student.

Scott said, essentially, that’s not really his fault. He isn’t cutting state money to public schools, he simply is choosing not to replace federal stimulus money that is no longer available.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and lawmakers used stimulus dollars to prop up the state’s budgets the past two years, and now that money is gone. Trying to find a new one-time source of cash to replace it doesn’t make sense, the governor said, likening that to a Lottery winner spending all his winnings on the assumption that he’d win again next year.

“We’re not going to take federal money and believe it’s going to be there forever,” Scott said.

Budget officials in the governor’s office said the loss of federal stimulus money accounted for some of the cuts to education, but didn’t provide details on how the governor planned to achieve all of them.

Scott said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he wanted Florida students to receive a “first class education,” advocating for the state to better invest in its education system, provide school choice and create a merit pay system for teachers. Lawmakers are already working on a merit pay system, but have been slower to take up a voucher expansion.

Under Scott’s proposed spending plan, per pupil spending in K-12 would drop by $298
to $6,600 per student.

The House Prek-12 budget subcommittee chair, Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, has said she hopes to protect the per pupil spending level at the current year amount.

Scott’s overall budget – just shy of $66 billion – gained kudos from business groups around the state, who praised him for a budget that didn’t raise taxes and focused on job creation.

“Cuts to education and health care will inevitably raise concerns among some, but in the midst of a recession, government must cut expenses because raising taxes is a death knell for job creation,” said Associated Industries of Florida President Barney Bishop.

Getting school spending to the $6,600 per student level would still rely in part on Washington, having local school boards reserve dollars from a federal education jobs fund from this year.

Education advocates argued that a $300 per student cut still will result in layoffs and make things worse for the public school system, not better.

FundEducationNow.org, an Orlando grassroots education advocacy organization that says it was created by parents of public school children, called the proposed cuts “catastrophic.”

“Florida’s children are the key to our long term economic stability. High-quality public education is a job creator not a funding burden,” said group co-founder Linda Kobert. “Gov. Scott must embrace his paramount duty to invest in the real future of this state – the students.”

The governor’s office released details of the budget on a Website that got so many hits Monday afternoon that it crashed. That made it hard for some advocates to evaluate the proposal. Officials at the Board of Governors said they couldn’t comment on proposed cuts to higher education, because they hadn’t been able to read the budget recommendation.

The Board of Governors could face a substantial reduction if stimulus dollars from last year are not replaced. Twenty out of 53 positions were paid for by stimulus money.

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Education always seems to be on the chopping block when it comes to budget cuts, and Governor Rick Scott says he's a fan of education reform. We caught up with him Monday morning, and talked with people concerned about cuts to education.

Damien Filer said, "Well the first thing that jumped out at me is what looks like a $3 Billion dollar cut to education."

Education activist Damien Filer said Governor Scott's budget proposal is bad news for Florida's children.

Monday Morning, we caught up with Rick Scott and he said education would fare "well" in the budget cuts, and that schools come first for him.

Governor Rick Scott said, "We're going to continue to making sure that our teachers have a measurement system where the best teachers get paid the best, and we give parents as much choice as possible."

Scott plans on using the merit system to give teachers who excel raises, but some wonder how he will regulate his merit pay.

"FCAT is one way of doing it, there's a lot of different ways of doing it. So I want to sit down with others, teachers, principles and see how they want to do it," said Governor Scott.

Even though Scott says education is one of his priorities, parents worry about his plans to keep Florida afloat.

Damien Filer said, "To take away what little they've got to work with, is unconscionable, I really don't see how we can do right by our kids and not do right by our schools."

Scott's reform plan also includes expanding the school voucher program.

But some parents with children in public schools say giving people the choice of having school vouchers will hurt our school system, not help.

Filer said, (it) "would be another attack on resources for our public schools, and a cut we cannot afford to take."

While people in the Tallahassee area, and across the state, worry about cuts to education, Governor Rick Scott did increase the amount of money going to Bright Futures by 12 million dollars.


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