Democrats blast GOP education agenda

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Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith on Wednesday blasted Republican legislative leaders for education cuts in the $70 billion state budget. A former state senator from Gainesville, Smith pointed to the spending plan’s $300 million cut to state universities and its increase in tuition at state universities while creating a new one. He also said lawmakers had zeroed out funding for public school construction and repair, leaving many counties unable to fix a broken air conditioner. “But at the same time, we essentially backed the bonding for, what, $55 million for charter-school construction?” Smith said. “What’s the statement we’re making? Is this in fact the first step of abandoning the public school system?”

But House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Miami Republican, dismissed the attack and asked why Smith had waited until the budget was complete before objecting. “This has been the most open, the most transparent, the most inclusive process that I’ve seen in my eight years in the Legislature,” he said. ” I think you can chalk [Smith’s charges] up to campaign rhetoric.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott, an opponent of the tuition hikes in the proposed budget, said Wednesday morning that universities must figure out ways to cut costs instead. “Every business has had to tighten their belt,” Scott said. “Our universities have to do the same thing.” Public school spending got a $1 billion boost in the budget, following a $1.3 billion cut last year.

Via The News Service of Florida.

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