State House members are in Tallahassee today and tomorrow looking at ways to cut more than 2 billion dollars from the state budget. As one of the largest items, schools face some of the largest cuts, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, school officials from around the state are at the Capitol pleading for mercy.
Florida spends 140 million dollars a year recognizing A and B schools. The schools use the money for everything from ice cream socials to clowns and fairs. But in tight budget times like these, CFO Alex Sink says the non mission critical budget items need to go.
“If we get down to making a decision, or the legislature has to make a decision between cutting teachers out of the classroom or continuing to fund a program that’s not mission critical, I know where I would make the choice,” Sink said.
The call for reexamining the budget comes as school officials from around the state are walking Capitol hallways looking for relief. Miami Dade’s Superintendent told state house members firing people could actually make economic conditions worse.
“If we begin downsizing by the thousands, and that’s what a 100 million dollar or 200 million dollar reduction will result in, these people will go on welfare and these people will not find jobs in the current economy,” Miami Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said.
One school official here working the hallways commented only partially in jest that what the state budget really needs is CPR.
State Education commissioner Eric Smith is warning school boards to brace for the worst.
“Further cuts are going to be very difficult to manage at the district level, at the community college level,” Smith said.
Legislative committee meetings on the cuts are just beginning. The tough decisions begin when lawmakers come back in early January.
One idea to offset school cuts is to allow local districts to use tax money earmarked for construction in the classroom, at least temporarily.