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Not-So-Sunny Florida


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?"


There are bad times and good time in families and in schools. In the good times, we tend to "overexpand," to take on debt that we can handle at the time, but which becomes unmanageable in the bad times. I think that's the situation that many families are in today ... and many school share the pain. We did not anticipate the bad times when we started new programs that, no matter how beneficial they are, we can not fund at the moment.

The good news is that, just as the good times don't last forever, neither do the bad times. It might be helpful for us to keep this in mind when spending ... although we can pay for things now, we might not in the future. A little moderation in the good times might be helpful in the bad.

Tim, I'm not sure to what debt you are referring. Florida schools are required by law to have a balanced budget and the only debt we carry is from bonds approved by voters - usually for maintenance and construction of often overcrowded school buildings for which voters, themselves, see a need. This debt has a dedicated recurring revenue source for repayment.
With the exception of a 3-5% emergency fund, which most school districts budget, we SHOULD spend every penny we have on programs we know work. Unfortunately, with mid-year budget cuts from the state this emergency fund is quickly wiped out. In Florida, it is the state's constitutional duty to annually provide adequate funding for eduction. Perhaps if the legislature made better business decisions (ex: stop giving our natural spring water away free to commercial companies that sell it back to us as "natural spring water") we would have the money for the beneficial programs that work. The purpose and obligation of public education is to provide the best education possible with the funds we are given.
School districts exercise a great deal of moderation. The national Chamber of Commerce recommends businesses spend 3-5% of their operating budget on administration in order to guarantee quality control. School districts in Florida struggle to keep anywhere near this percentage while trying to answer loud cries for accountability. Meanwhile, legislators tell us to "cut the administrative fat". When asked what percent they feel appropriate to be spent on administration not one has taken a public position. If we spend 0% there will be no buses, no cafeteria food, no textbooks delivered, no curriculum guides written, no professional development offered, no payroll, no hiring, no safety and security plans, no grant writing, and no volunteer networks. Even in good times, Florida schools exercise MUCH moderation. To cut out innovative, beneficial programs in case we might need the money some day is like not putting oil in a car because we might need the money for gas some day. We need our car to run. We need our schools to teach.

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Recent Comments

  • Donna: Tim, I'm not sure to what debt you are referring. read more
  • tim: There are bad times and good time in families and read more




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