While many states have scaled back on school funding due to the recession, Florida’s education system has been hit harder than most, according to a recent story on NPR’s All Things Considered. NPR’s Jacki Lyden spoke with several Floridian educators to find out what next year’s possible $100 million education budget cuts could mean for the schools. Everyone expressed concern.
"In my 32 years of being a public educator, I’ve never experienced anything like this," Orange County Florida schools superintendent Ronald Blocker admits. Orange County has already reduced its teaching force by hundreds, but going forward Blocker anticipates the closing of smaller schools, the possibility of a four-day school week, and the elimination of more teaching positions. "When we were $70 million short, we had to eliminate over 560 teaching positions, so this year . . . we may be eliminating at the very least a comparable number of positions."
Orange County parent and PTA president Stacey Rodrigues fears that her daughters will miss out on quality instruction if the budget cuts lead to fewer teacher professional development hours. "You have teachers that . . . aren’t able to get the most updated training. We want them to have the materials to not only educate our children but to engage them."
Teachers themselves are also nervous about losing resources. Richard Ellenburg, Florida’s 2008 Teacher of the Year, currently engages students with rocket launchings, classroom pets, and an award-winning garden, but knows the funds for such projects will not last. "The ten percent cut in my particular school would definitely cut my science lab," he says.
Blocker is worried about how the impact of the current budget situation, which he describes as "dire," will trickle down to the students. "You ultimately have to ask yourself the question: Are you here to educate or are you here to warehouse?"