FEA, Democrats critical of education shortfall in recently signed budget

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Not everyone was pleased with Florida’s election-year budget – the largest in the state’s history — signed on Monday by Gov. Rick Scott

Emphasizing a lack of focus on public education, Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant referred to the $77 billion state spending plan as one filled with “hundreds of millions in pork barrel spending and taxpayer giveaways.”

“Over the last three years, Rick Scott has made it clear to Floridians that lining the pockets of special interests comes before doing what’s right for the middle class,” said. “Per-pupil education funding remains below 2007 levels. Bright Futures scholarships have been slashed to the bone. Nearly one million Floridians still lack access to affordable health care.

“In a reelection campaign where Rick Scott is trying desperately to run away from his failed record, one thing has not changed: Rick Scott takes care of the wealthy special interests while ignoring the needs of middle class Floridians,” he added.

Also critical over a shortfall in education spending is the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest employee union, which represents more than 140,000 teachers, educators and staff.

FEA President Andy Ford called the state’s budget “a lost opportunity” to make a real investment in Florida’s public schools.

“Yes, there was a modest increase in the budget for public schools. But we’re spending less per student than we spent in the 2007-2008 school year,” Ford said. “This Legislature found even more money for even more tax breaks for corporations, but schools still aren’t funded at the level they were seven years ago.”

The recovering state economy was an opportunity to make up for the drastic cuts of the economic downturn that occurred during Scott’s first year in office, Ford added.

“For seven years we’ve been starving our schools despite the growth in the number of students we’re educating,” he said. “This budget represents a squandered opportunity for the governor and the Legislature to make a significant investment in Florida’s public school students.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.