You may have never heard of Roberto Martinez but he has a lot to say about public education in Florida. Mr. Martinez is a member of the Florida Board of Education. A Georgetown Law graduate, he also holds a Masters in Accounting and a B.S. in Economics from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He was first appointed to the Board of Education by Gov. Jeb Bush and re-appointed by Gov. Crist.
Despite his close ties to the Republican establishment in Tallahassee, Mr. Martinez has become very vocal about the state of education and education funding in Florida. In July, he wrote an open memo to his colleagues. He stated:
If Florida is truly serious about the education and future of our children, we need to have a profound commitment to the great range of items I’ve outlined and make them happen,” Martinez wrote in his nine-page memo.
“We should not seek to make gradual, marginal changes around the edges. We must make fundamental transformational reforms, and provide the necessary resources sustained over time to make the reforms succeed.”
Earlier this month, we had a conference call with Mr. Martinez. He expressed his frustration with the lack of funding for public education. He had recently attended a meeting in Miami where the Board of Education and Commissioner Eric Smith finalized their budget request for fiscal year 2010-2011. Their budget proposal calls for an 8% increase in funding. (The Governor’s budget chief has stated that only budget cuts should be submitted- no increases should be requested.) Mr. Martinez felt the 8% was too modest and should be higher. He told us that he had written a letter to be submitted with the budget expressing this opinion.
“…I do not believe that the Budget appropriately and adequately funds a high-quality education for every student in Florida.”
The letter frequently refers to the language in the Florida Constitution and Martinez’ feeling that the state is not currently fulfilling its duties under Article IX. He rails against the inequities that exist in Florida’s schools and feels that more monies need to be pumped into proven programs and salaries for excellent teachers. He outlines 5 suggestions to address the challenge to adequately and appropriately fund a high quality education: improve the quality of the teaching profession, examine each school’s resources, modify the class-size amendment, re-prioritize Florida’s revenues and expenses, and reforming Florida’s tax system- including a repeal of certain sales tax exemptions.
Read the full letter here. It is addressed to Commissioner Eric Smith with a request that he include it in the budget package for the Governor and the entire legislature.
by Christine Bramuchi