I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Rally for School Funding

A Rally for School Funding will be taking place on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 at Washington High School in Pensacola. The main focus of the rally will be to produce a large turnout of parents, students, district employees, and the general public to speak with one voice urging our legislators to fund education adequately in our State. The past two years have produced shrinking state budgets for schools, and this has resulted in extreme discontent statewide, as districts fight to preserve student programs against the backdrop of diminishing funding.

At the district workshop yesterday afternoon, this rally was announced. It was made clear during the workshop that this will be a non-partisan, pro-student rally. This was a relief to hear, because people of differing political ideology can all agree there is currently a funding problem—but might also strongly disagree on the solutions. Some of the solutions I hear thrown around I simply do not agree with-- (raising sales tax statewide by one cent, raising taxes on businesses) while others I strongly support (allowing districts more flexibility in spending, an easing off of state level unfunded mandates).

The problem is that districts are operating based upon how they have always been funded—and suddenly the rug is being pulled out from under them. I understand the reasons why (recession/depression), but now is not the time for the state to make draconian cuts to education funding. At the statewide level, a new funding formula needs to be worked out that is fair, flexible, efficient, and sustainable. Students must be the priority (not organized labor unions, entrenched educational products makers/marketers, or other special interest groups) and we must be willing to look at ways of reducing education costs overall, not automatically increasing education expenditures yearly. We need to find efficiencies in education budgeting such that students are not adversely impacted, the system is transparent, employees are accountable, and taxpayers continue to get excellent results for their money---as they have over the last ten year period in Florida. (I know this bothers some, but statistics do not lie!)

Florida is, after all, a top-ten ranked school system nationally by the Union Sponsored Quality Counts Survey. Let’s keep up the good work and continue to strive to do even better for our students and taxpayers in the years ahead!

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