Look out, public broadcastingby Dara Kam | March 15th, 2011
Florida lawmakers have $1.6 billion less to spend on education this year than last, according to a preliminary glimpse of the Senate’s education spending plan.
The shortfall comes from the disappearance of one-time $880 million federal stimulus funds used last year plus a reduction in property tax collections due to a decline in assessed values.
Senate K-12 education budget committee chairman David Simmons handed out spreadsheets to his committee and told them to be ready to do some serious cutting when they meet again on Thursday.
“For anybody who sees this do not have a heart attack yet,” cautioned Simmons, R-Maitland, who pointed out that lawmakers still have $554 million in federal “Education Jobs” grants leftover that school districts were supposed to have held onto from last year.
And the $1.6 billion hold “does not reflect any kind of “beg allocation,” Simmons said. “That’s where we’re going to beg for an additional allocation for education.”
Simmons drew attention to a single item on the $22 billion public education spending spreadsheet: public broadcasting.
Lawmakers allocated $9,045,569 on public broadcasting last year, including nearly $1.5 million in federal funds (that no longer exist). This year, public broadcasting’s preliminary allocation is $7,555,361, a 16.5% decrease, Simmons said.
“The question is what are we going to do with public education? Are we going to simply cut that 16.5%? What are we going to do members?” Simmons asked.
Congressional interest in cutting federal funding for public broadcasting intensified recently over a National Public Radio executive’s alleged tea party-bashing remarks caught on videotape. That videotape is now in dispute.
“I know it’s a topic someone is going to ask us about,” Simmons said after the meeting.
The Florida Channel, that provides coverage of committee meetings, legislative sessions and other events, receives a portion of the state’s public broadcasting funds.
Simmons said he supports public broadcasting but “at the same time, I also know we have significant challenges with respect to our budget.”
“So what we will do is we will debate that just like we’re going to debate every one of the other issues here and decide collegially what we’re going to do,” he said.