Governor Crist’s budget director sent a memo this week to all agency chiefs, including Education Commissioner Eric Smith, because budget requests were due on Thursday October 15th. The memo reminds them that the state faces a $2.6 billion deficit for critical needs next year. It then goes on to state “we anticipate no requested increases in agencies’ budgets as well as a full slate of reduction options.”
The Florida Board of Education had already submitted its budget asking for an 8% increase in funding and has not revised its request per the memo. Let me remind you- the board consists of Crist’s own Republican appointees. They have drafted a letter to the Florida legislature demanding better funding for education. Our sources tell us that the letter has been written and at least 5 board members have co-signed it. However, the Orlando Sentinel reports that the letter hasn’t been drawn up yet.
Though the first priority would be to cut administration, the 40-page document shows the department thinks cuts of 10 percent would hurt all sorts of educational services in the state.
The big three:
–community colleges (whose enrollment increased by about 22,500 this past year) would offer few courses, run bigger classes and cut faculty.
— public schools could end up with about $194 less per student, which would mean cuts to teacher rolls and programs. Complying with the state’s class-size rules would also be in jeopardy.
— the state’s Voluntary Pre-kindergarten program would get $242 less for each 4-year-old enrolled, hurting the quality of that program.
Of course, it is very early in the budget process and much will change between now and the Florida Legislature’s adoption of a final spending plan for the 2010-11 school year.
Florida already ranks near the bottom of all states for education funding. Our per pupil amount is nearly $4,000 less than the national average. How can our children afford any less?