Superintendent: Legislators’ lack of ‘clout’ hurts schools

By Richard Yager….

Albert Carvalho

“There’s no clout for Miami-Dade in Tallahassee this year and that’s the real problem,” summarized Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent Albert Carvalho, speaking in West Kendall on Apr. 20, while urging support for equitable apportionment of state taxes for local education.

The school district’s top executive minced no words about the county’s lack of legislator senority during the current session.

“Our representation largely consists of first-time representatives, and that’s why we need your strong support in Tallahassee to help balance our budget this year without new taxes or curtailing salaries or curriculum. Otherwise, the dollars we need will go to someone else,” Carvalho said.

“We send the most taxes up there of any county in the state, so it’s critically important that we receive a fair share back,” he told a town meeting at Hammocks Middle School hosted by the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) and attended by nearly 200.

“Usually we have a strong voice, but for the first time in years there’s no Miami- Dade leader represented in the Senate or House, not even as a vice chair of Appropriations. That makes it tough to get dollars back,” he said.

“I have no problem making do within a budget that gives Miami-Dade its fair apportionment of state taxes. Give us the rightful share of tax dollars we send to Tallahassee every year and our system will be just fine.”

Carvalho’s message also was scheduled to be delivered Apr. 28 to members of West Kendall Business Association in his continuing effort to reconcile a potential $215 million loss of state funding for the school system in 2011-12.

That figure is based upon Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget that would decrease education funding by 10 percent or $1.7 billion, a decrease of $214.9 million as projected for Miami-Dade schools.

To emphasize the point, Carvalho displayed a chart comparing state funding of Florida’s eight largest school districts that has Miami-Dade receiving the lowest amount of state tax money ($6,721) in terms of per pupil dollars ($275 per pupil less than Duval and $95 less per pupil than Broward).

Other key comments by Carvalho:

Three years ago, the district was on the verge of bankruptcy but “we pulled out of a financial hole without losing a single teacher and trimming a school budget from $5.5 to $4.6 billion.”

State mandates forced cutting more than $400 million from budgets since 2007-08 but the district still has boosted reserves by $21 million to bring total reserves to more than $100 million — a level unreached in over a decade.

An administration force today operates with a 52 percent reduction of “salary costs in the downtown school department office.”

“We will not do away with arts, music and other programs that are just as essential as basics in math, reading, language and sciences while I am superintendent here.”

“The school board has been cooperative in working together harmoniously with this administration and is committed to maintaining a full teaching corps of 23,000 for 345,000 students.”

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