From MYFOX 35, Orlando.
This weekend thousands of Florida parents, teachers, students, administrators and community members took part in militant “Make Our Schools A Priority” protests against cuts in education.
The big event was the rally in Orlando reported in the video above (more here), but smaller actions have been held around the state, some of which included legislators in attendance (examples here and here).
The economic situation, tax collections, the state budget and local school budgets are all in dire circumstances. Some of this is detailed on the Channel13, Central Florida web site. A couple of examples:
- The district is facing an $80 million reduction next year if the funding picture doesn’t change. Already $101.4 million has been struck from the $1.2 billion budget since July 2007.
WHAT’S BEEN DONE:
- Brevard has lost about 1,770 students since October, so some teaching jobs could be eliminated.
- They’ve already made some cuts to busing, especially summer busing programs.
- Departments such as facilities have lost about 20 percent of their staff through attrition. This likely will continue.
- School Board Members slashed their salaries by more than 6 percent.
- Brevard Federation of Teachers accepted a two-year salary freeze for teachers and service staff.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN:
- Superintendent Richard DiPatri is asking all district employees to consider a pay cut.
- 946 positions – or 9 percent – have been identified to be eliminated if the district needs to trim $80 million from budget.
- Potential layoffs include 378 teachers and more than 550 staff members, including administrators, bus drivers, office clerks and custodians.
- Freshman and junior varsity sports could be cut.
- Based on a 16% reduction, funding shortfall totals $44 million.
WHAT’S BEEN DONE:
- 2008-2009 School year:
- Marion School District did not renew contracts with 522 first- and second-year teachers for next year
- Froze all open positions
- Implemented 4-day summer work week and consolidated summer program locations
- Eliminated Truancy Center and district-funded field trips
- Cut 49 positions from business operations staff
WHAT COULD HAPPEN:
- Further reduce district and school staff and support services
- Reorganize and/or reduce number of schools
- Reduce salaries for district and 12-month employees
- More cuts expected in transportation
The lists go on and on.
Under these extreme conditions, the gloves have come off. The tone of the “Make Or Schools A Priority” campaign is fairly confrontational as you can see from this video (one of a series
I like the militancy, the mass actions and even the confrontational tone. I sincerely believe that although things are nowhere near as bad in Wisconsin that after 15 years of annual cuts in educational opportunities we also have a crisis in school funding. I worry that polite advocacy fails to communicate the reality of that crisis.
A Saturday, March 21 meeting of the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee will be held at Miller Park. This would be a great time to turn out some numbers for education and comprehensive education finance reform.
Back in Florida, the Legislature returns for a budget session on Tuesday facing a $700 million shortfall. Governor Charlie Crist is scheduled to give his “State of the State” address on that day.
Hat tip to Sherman Dorn for making me aware of the goings on in Florida.
For more on school finance in Florida, see the National Access Network state page.
Thomas J. Mertz
Filed under "education finance", Best Practices, Budget, education, finance, Local News, National News, School Finance, Take Action, Uncategorized, We Are Not Alone