Florida Targets Big Cuts In Education
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Many states are also struggling with record budget gaps. Over the next several weeks we'll be following the budget process in Florida. In its first report, NPR's Greg Allen says that like many states, Florida is targeting big cuts in education.
GREG ALLEN: Two years ago, faced with the worst recession in the last 70 years, the Obama administration provided stimulus money to the states to help them pay for everything from Medicaid to education. Scott says that was a mistake.
RICK SCOTT: Some of have been accustomed to the artificially high level of state spending made possible by the money the federal government borrowed from our grandchildren, but no longer.
ALLEN: At a rally with several hundred Tea Party supporters last week, Scott ruled out any tax increases. In fact, he wants to cut taxes further by an additional $4 billion over the next two years. To get there, he's targeted education. He wants to cut more than $2 billion from public schools, colleges and universities, that despite a campaign pledge that would not cut money from education. When asked about his pledge by reporters, he had this to say...
SCOTT: No, it's not going back on anything I promised. What I said throughout the campaign and what I'm saying today is we're not cutting any money that came - came out of the state general revenue - we're not cutting that. Any money that they relied on - relied federal bailouts, that was different.
ALLEN: Practically speaking, it means a cut of some $700 per student. In the nation's fourth largest school district, Miami-Dade County, School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says the math is clear.
ALBERTO CARVALHO: That in fact the state is addressing its deficit on the backs of kids.
ALLEN: Over the last two years, with belt-tightening and federal aid, Miami- Dade County has largely avoided teacher layoffs. At a school board meeting last week, Carvalho said the governor's proposal would cut his operating revenue by 10 percent and make massive teacher layoffs inevitable.
CARVALHO: Never in the history of our district, not going back to 1885, when the first recorded minutes of this district were identified, have we faced a situation like this.
ALLEN: Which all leaves Miami-Dade Teacher's Union chief Karen Aronowitz with a question.
KAREN ARONOWITZ: When did teachers become some kind of enemy?
ALLEN: Aronowitz thinks the government is leaving out a key factor that brings workers and businesses to a community: good public schools.
ARONOWITZ: This is an investment in Florida, and if you do not support public education, excuse me, Mr. Businessman, I ask you - Ms. Businesswoman - why are you coming here?
ALLEN: Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
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