By: Lanetra Bennett
February 19, 2014
Tallahassee, FL - Last month, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced historic funding for K-12 schools and state colleges and universities. That funding includes record total operating funds of nearly nine billion dollars for K-12 public schools.
However, some teachers and legislators say it's not enough.
State Senators, Geraldine Thompson and Dwight Bullard say Florida needs fully funded public schools. The pair joined members of "Florida For All" to relay their message in front of Governor Rick Scott's office Wednesday.
Senator Bullard, who's also a teacher, says too many schools are in disrepair. He uses a South Florida school as example. He says, "The school was still running on an Edison fuse box system. Let me say that again. A Thomas Edison fuse box electrical system in a school for students in 2013, that's deplorable."
Governor Scott proposes $18.84 billion dollars in total funding for K-12 education, which his staff says is the highest in Florida history. His office says it's $542 million above the 2013-14 funding level.
Thompson and Bullard say it's still hundreds of millions below pre-recession levels.
Senator Thompson says, 'It's wrong. It's lopsided. It's short-changing the children."
The senators say Florida ranks 45th in the nation for per pupil spending.
Thompson says, "We will continue to fight for students, to fight for teachers, and to fight for parents. We can't accept business as usual with regard to giving tax cut for the wealthy while our children do not have an adequate public education."
The senators also point out Florida's growing population. They say that means more students, stretching funding even thinner.
Thompson and Bullard say they'd also like to see raises for teachers. Scott is recommending $8 million in professional development for principals, and $5 million for training and technical assistance for teachers.
See below for more information on Scott's proposed education funding
Press Release: Florida Governor's Office
From January 27, 2014: Governor Rick Scott today announced historic funding for K-12, state colleges and universities as part of his “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget.” This funding includes record total operating funds of $18.84 billion for K-12 public schools, $2 billion for state colleges and $3.59 billion for Florida’s public universities- all of which are the largest total investments in Florida history.
Governor Scott said, “Building on the record K-12 education funding and teacher pay raises and classroom debit cards of last year, I am committing an historic $18.8 billion in total funding K-12 education. We need to provide the tools, training and funding to give our students the best chance for success.
“And our commitment to education doesn’t stop at the K-12 level. We expect our students to get the best education at our state institutions of higher education that leads to a great job and career. That’s why I’m also investing record total funding for state colleges of $2 billion and $3.59 billion for Florida public universities. Our students deserve the best quality education, and this funding will help to ensure that every degree achieved is followed by a great career.”
The $18.8 billion in funding for K-12 education funding is the highest in Florida history and includes a record $10.6 billion in state funds. This total is a $542 million increase above the 2013-14 funding level. In addition, Governor Scott is recommending $8.4 million in professional development for principals and assistant principals and $5 million for training and technical assistance for teachers related to the implementation of state standards.
Included in the total funding for colleges and universities is $40 million of new funds for the Florida College System and $40 million in new funds for the State University System for performance funding.
The Governor’s office is working with the Board of Governors and the State Board of Education to ensure this funding will be allocated to colleges and universities based on metrics including percentage of graduates employed or continuing education, average wages of graduates, and cost per undergraduate degrees.
“Our students and teachers have led the nation in preparing for success in college, in career and in life,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. “This historic commitment to our schools will only improve our state’s reputation as the national leader as the ideal location to learn, work and live.”
“Governor Scott has been a resourceful leader for education with creative ideas such as the $10,000 degrees from Florida colleges,” said Chancellor Randy Hanna, Florida College System. “The governor’s ‘It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget’ further encourages the great work of our colleges by providing incentives to those who are most successful in strengthening Florida’s workforce and making our economy more viable.”
Marshall Criser III, Chancellor, State University System Board of Governors said, “Governor Scott’s support for Florida’s higher education system is underscored by his proposal to increase performance based funding in this budget. The Board of Governors has set objectives that best serve Florida students, families, and our institutions. Governor Scott’s commitment to match new dollars with an increment of existing funding to achieve these goals positions Florida to continue to lead in developing a workforce for the growing job market and to grow Florida’s economy.”
“We are pleased to see Governor’s Scott’s continued investment in K-12 education,” said Patricia Levesque, Executive Director of Foundation for Florida’s Future. “Our state has made the emphasis on student achievement a top priority and a precedent for education reform across the nation. We look forward to seeing how the latest budget will continue Florida’s commitment to student success.”
“Governor Scott’s investment in the future of our children will help ensure students are better prepared for successful careers. Employers across the nation will view Florida as a state with a strong, competitive talent pipeline,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce. “The Governor’s recommendations will have a lasting impact on Florida’s classrooms and our economy for years to come.”
Press Release: Florida For All
Protestors Say Governor Scott Still Shortchanging our Schools
Special Deals for Corporate Friends, While Schools Lag Behind
Tallahassee, FL – Senators Dwight Bullard (D-39) and Geraldine Thompson (D-12) joined concerned citizens at the State Capitol on Wednesday to let Rick Scott know that Florida needs fully funded schools, not sweetheart deals for special interest groups.
Participants at today’s event were quick to point out that Scott’s proposed funding increases are nothing more than election-year pandering. He is failing to invest in education while falsely claiming to deliver historic new funding: fully two-thirds of his new education funding comes from rising property taxes. Scott, who has never made education a priority and promised to cut property taxes while campaigning, is just playing a shell game with the public.
“Governor Scott just doesn’t seem to share our priorities,” said Senator Bullard. “In his first year in office, he proposed massive corporate tax cuts, paid for by slashing education. Now that the state has a surplus, he feels that we should applaud him for restoring some of the devastating cuts that were made to our schools.”
Scott’s proposed funding is still hundreds of millions of dollars below pre-recession levels. Even with the new budget, the state ranks 45th in the nation in per pupil spending. Teachers salaries are $9,000 below the national average and rank 42 in the country.
Meanwhile, Scott has been promoting corporate tax breaks like a $104 million tax cut on commercial leases, which will largely benefit special interest groups. Since 2010, Scott has taken in at least $1.2 million in contributions from groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation, who have lobbied the Governor to reduce the sales tax on commercial leases. Scott wants to eliminate the tax altogether, leaving a $1.4 billion gaping hole in the budget, an amount equivalent to hiring 30,000 new teachers.
In addition, Rick Scott recently announced a spending plan that would award $90 million in PECO dollars and lottery funds for construction and maintenance to 350 privately run charter schools, and only $80 million to be divided among 3,500 public schools. Scott has taken in at least $95,000 in contributions from charter school interests, while several hundred thousand dollars flowed to the Republican Party.
“Our public schools are suffering from years of neglect and deferred maintenance,” said Senator Bullard. “It’s unconscionable that he wants to give the majority of PECO funds for construction and repairs to privately run charter schools. The Governor should visit the students in crumbling schools and classrooms without air conditioning and explain to them why they don’t count.”