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Democrats putting education “front and center” in legislative campaigns

by John Kennedy | October 3rd, 2012

Florida’s ruling Republicans are undermining their own pledge to boost the state’s economy by shifting millions of dollars away from public education, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and state Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said Wednesday.

Flanked by a dozen university students, Graham and Smith expanded on what has become a steady campaign theme this fall for Democrats in state House and Senate races across the state.

Graham, who also served as Florida governor from 1979-87, said Republicans have come close to reversing the state’s longstanding commitment to universities, which in his time had taxpayers covering 75 percent of college costs and students paying 25 percent.

“We can’t continue down this course if we aspire to be a state where young people want to plant their personal flags,” Graham said.

The Legislature cut university spending $300 million this year, while restoring $1 billion to public schools which had shouldered a $1.3 billion reduction in 2011.  Tuition was increased between 9 percent and 15 percent at the state’s 11 universities, in the latest round of several years of steep hikes.

Florida Republicans have defended the actions. Lawmakers have had to deal with multibillion dollar budget shortfalls since the recession hardened in 2007.  With analysts predicting a slight surplus next year, Republican Gov. Rick Scott has lately joined the chorus calling for more dollars for schools.

But with the federal government also reducing financial aid programs, Graham concluded, “At all levels, higher education is under assault.”

Graham and Smith said the budget cuts, combined with a slow economy, are making it increasingly difficult for Florida students to attend state universities. Meanwhile, students attending Wednesday’s news conference with the Democratic leaders also told of struggling to enroll in the classes they needed, or being forced to attend school for an additional academic year because of budget cuts.

“We have demonstrably devalued education in this state,” Smith said.

Smith said Democratic candidates in legislative races have made the difficulties families face with education a central part of their campaign pitch.

“In almost every one of our House races and in the Senate races we are involved in, you’re hearing about education again,” Smith said. “It is front and center, because families in Florida, when they sit down at the breakfast table, are worried about not only jobs for themselves, but jobs for their children and grandchildren.”

While Graham decried rising student costs, he is expected to be in attendance Thursday at the Florida Supreme Court for a case he started and which critics say could spur tuition rates even higher. Graham is the lead party in a 2007 lawsuit over whether the State University System Board of Governors — or the Legislature — is empowered to set tuition.

Lower courts have ruled against Graham, whose side says a 2002 constitutional amendment makes it clear that it is solely the board’s responsibility to set tuition rates.

Under current law, the Legislature has authority to set tuition increases, and universities can add an additional increase so long as the total tuition increase year-over-year does not exceed 15 percent.


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One Response to “Democrats putting education “front and center” in legislative campaigns”

  1. Billions Spent Says:

    As a nation, as a State, as a county-we have spent BILLIONS and BILLIONS on education. Just Billions! What we do have here in PBC are new schools, but still a lousy educational system.

    PBC ‘graduates’ high school students who need REMEDIAL HELP in ‘college’. The students are NOT PREPARED for college work!

    Throwing money at education is not the answer.

    The key to a student doing well is their parent. If the parent values education, the student will value education.

    The parent needs to demand that their child follow directions, listen to the teacher, show respect, raise their hand and tell the teacher he/she doesn’t understand and ASK FOR HELP!

    What teachers need to do is insist that the bad teachers be kicked out of education and not kept on the payroll.

    The new education initiative is to keep those inept teachers and ‘help’ them. Well, do not put my child in that teacher’s classroom for an entire year. My child will lose out, all the while, the teacher is ‘getting help’. That is a disservice to all the children in that failing teacher’s classroom. Do you want your child in a classroom for an entire yr with a teacher who is ‘getting help’?!?!

    That same should be done to the bad administrators who are placed at the district office when they are found to be incompetent leaders. Get rid of them.

    There should be a way of getting rid of these inept employees.

    Money is not the answer. Valuing education is the answer. Allowing parents to decide where their children should go to school.

    The curriculum in schools have been bogged down by this group and that group demanding that something be taught…thereby taking away value basic instruction in the classroom.

    And as an alert to parents and teachers, there is a new mandate of keeping misbehaving students in the classroom so they won’t miss out on instruction. Teachers need to ‘work’ with these misbehaving students, using strategies and techniques to stop the misbehavior that is occuring. Apparently, teacher are not doing that!

    And that is a bunch of hooey! Keeping misbehaving students in a classroom will be a detrimental to all the other students in the classroom.

    I do hope that teachers stand up to this new initiative, or there will be less learning taking place in classrooms.

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