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taken from The Tampa Tribune -- published Tuesday, May 6.
Miami Herald's analysis probably said it best: The big winners in the
new state budget are prison builders; the big losers are public
about getting your priorities wrong.
the legislative session ended Friday, Gov. Charlie Crist and
lawmakers congratulated themselves for a job well done. But public
schools and parents found nothing to celebrate. They know the $900
million cut in K-12 funding will hurt education when public schools
begin the new year in August.
remarks after the Legislature closed, the governor focused not on the
cuts, but on having saved the state's merit-pay plan for teachers, a
program used by just a handful of districts, including Hillsborough.
The merit-pay plan is not highly regarded because the way it's scored -- a mix of FCAT scores and performance reviews -- falls short of rewarding the most effective teachers. This year half of the finalists for Hillsborough's Teacher of the Year -- including the winner -- didn't qualify.
would be far better to spend the money in ways that clearly benefit
students and reward strong teachers.
Floridians deserve straight talk from the governor. Even the most optimistic among us cannot pretend our schools will be better off next year, and Crist should not suggest otherwise.
disappointing is that the governor promised to hold education
harmless when he campaigned in January for Amendment 1, the state
constitutional amendment that allows homeowners to take their
property-tax cap with them when they move. Critics said the
amendment's passage would hurt public education, but Crist promised
education would be held harmless.
That was his word.
Tell that to the teachers in Pinellas County who face pay cuts and
the closure of seven to 10 schools.
Tell that to Hillsborough students who will likely see fewer
librarians and school nurses, as well as overcrowding in elective
classes not covered by the class-size amendment.
Tell that to Broward and Miami-Dade schools, which will take about a
third of the $900-million cut and expect to have to lay off social
workers and guidance counselors.
Tell that to the schools cutting summer school programs, school
security, and art and music classes.
Tallahassee's depressing climate, lawmakers couldn't even agree on a
way to give cash-strapped districts temporary relief from class-size
caps, which continue to require the construction of costly new
of this sounds very harmless at all.
the same time, the state plans to spend nearly $300 million to build
new prisons and, incredibly, another $86 million to operate a private
prison population is expected to soar from about 96,000 inmates
today, to 120,000 inmates by 2012.
say the best way to slow the need for prisons is to put your money
into cheaper, more humane efforts at prevention, starting with
year, Florida sounded a retreat in the battle. By doing so, lawmakers
failed our children.