When it comes to education, Florida legislators are dumb

President George W. Bush said in a commencement speech at Southern Methodist University in 2015: “To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards and distinctions, I say, ‘Well done.’ And as I like to tell the C students, ‘You too, can be president.’”

There is no dishonor is being a C student. There is dishonor in having a C-level education system. But that is where the State of Florida has put itself proudly — well below the middle of the pack.

Education Week magazine graded each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Florida scored a 72, a low C overall. The average student’s chance for success was rated at 75.5; our school finance system got a lackluster D+, and our K-12 achievement received only a 73.9.

Mental capital has replaced industrial capability as the engine driving the economy. So to compete, we need to produce smarter students. And to get smarter students, we need a smarter education system.

Florida lawmakers have shown nothing but indifference and Gov. Rick Scott was happy to eviscerate the state’s education budget until he decided to run for the United States Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson.

Speaking about his last education budget, Scott wrote: “For the sixth straight year, we have secured record funding for K-12 and state universities to ensure every student has the opportunity to receive a world-class education in Florida.”

Politifact Florida rated that statement “Half True.”

Florida has a unique way of funding local education. Part of the money comes from the state and part of it comes from counties. In Fiscal Year 2007, total per pupil spending was $7,126. After that, during Scott’s tenure, Florida didn’t race to the top.

It plummeted to the basement. Seven consecutive state budgets saw per pupil spending below the 2007-08 level. It was only in FY 2016 that spending exceeded the old record in FY 2007, then by $70 per student. In the current budget, we’re going to be spending about $175 per student more than we did in FY 2007.

The governor and the legislature want to tout the gain. It is an increase in education spending, they brag. They need be more honest with Florida taxpayers.

When you take inflation into account, we’re still well behind. K-12 per-pupil spending. It would have to be more than $8,726 in the new budget to match the FY 2007 level. Instead we’re more than $1,000 a student short.

According to a group of Florida school superintendents, about 47 cents per student goes to classroom education. By comparison, a single Forever postage stamp is 50 cents. One letter home to parents and we bust the budget.

In some of our smaller counties, it barely is enough to cover the salary of a single new teacher. In some of our larger counties, we probably can count on one hand the number of new teachers the school systems can afford.

There is a way to fix this. We have 120 members of the Florida House, 40 members of the Florida Senate (half of which are up for reelection), and a governor’s race on the ballot this fall. Collectively, they got us into this mess.

There are 12.9 million registered voters in this state. Collectively, we can get ourselves out of this mess. It is time to demand from all of our elected officials, Republican and Democrat, that they not be satisfied with mediocrity.

We can’t satisfy ourselves with half-truths. The fate of our children and the future of our state are in the hands of men and women who are content to spend an extra 47 cents per child and declare success and go home.

If that is their attitude, we should just send them home, once and for all. 


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13 Comments on "When it comes to education, Florida legislators are dumb"

  1. carol exposito | May 17, 2018 at 5:37 pm | Reply

    And the spendthrift Democrats have a better idea???? Yes, let’s make sure our hard earned tax dollars aren’t wasted but are used effectively. It isn’t how MUCH you spend, but HOW you spend it. Throwing money at a problem solves nothing. Wise up people and vote for fiscal conservatives with new ideas!

  2. Margaret Haun | May 18, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Reply

    Fiscal conservatives with new ideas?? Who would that be? Fiscal conservatives got us into this mess in FL. In fact, many are associated through investment or ownership in for-profit charter schools. That’s where an enormous amount of public funding (via taxes) is going.

  3. Investors are playing with taxpayer money

  4. Michael Haley | May 20, 2018 at 8:45 pm | Reply

    The author is correct in citing Florida’s dismal results in education. Rather than argue if an extra increase in school funding will make a difference, Florida’s parents and legislators must demand competitive benchmarks and tangible results, such as those in top performance states like Connecticut, NY, etc., as well as seek out best practices and teachers’ excellence and strong salaries like the world’s best education found in the Nordics, according to international PISA rankings. Here the US overall achieved only dull 20th place and continues to slide below other developing nations in Europe and Asia.
    We in Florida can do better. Top countries like Finland select only the top 1/3 of their college graduates as teachers and pay them top salaries with winning results.
    Our kids are not internationally competitive upon graduating high schools in Florida. Colleges must include remedial classes just to succeed in a college education.
    The author is right. Florida needs to lift its goals to a more strategic and internationally competitive education for our kids

  5. James C. Black | May 21, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Reply

    Another reasonable argument by Grant Miller on a very important subject to all Floridians. Schools in Miami-Dade simply to not get enough support from the State to educate our kids to a degree that will allow them to achieve success in this competitive world. The level of teacher pay is a disgrace. The conditions in some of our schools is third rate. Voters must demand that our legislative leaders make educational funding a tip top priority.

  6. Michael Crosa | May 21, 2018 at 5:04 pm | Reply

    This is not a democrat or republican issue, it is our a state issue. If we want to compete against the other states we have to have a quality education system with highly qualified teachers. We can’t do it with a C average. We have to give your children the best we have so that they can be the best.

  7. jorge jtamargo | May 21, 2018 at 6:58 pm | Reply

    To those that divide the issue into parties Dem . throw money at problem . Republicans fill there pockets with our money . No throwing money at a problem does not fix it unless we got a plan. but folks at the end we need to throw the money at that plan which is the answer to the problem . As most of us know money in this country is what makes things work no money thrown , nothing gets fix . SO THE TERM ” throw money at it ” is what we need to do . Without the party labels .

  8. Republican gameplan. Dumb down the students feed them lies, arm the teachers and tell them the Bible is all the science they need to know.

    And this is why people from out of state come in and take the best jobs. Floridians are poorly educated and can’t compete with the rest of us.

  9. Geoffrey H Boutros | May 26, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Reply

    The amount of money being spent on players is part of the problem. When the author says that some superintendents claim that only $0.47 is available to be spent per student is a very misleading comment.

    In stead, look at the reason that students are not performing as well. Florida is too dependent on the common core. Teachers are rewarded and judged for how their students perform on the FSA and other standardized tests. Because of this, teachers are teaching the kids to pass the test instead of teaching knowledge and how to learn.

    The author is clearly taking a political and money approach to a problem rather than analyzing and investigating what is wrong.

  10. Government is the problem with public Education in our state. The Government lap dogs do their best to push parents to leave all teaching to the government. THAT IS WRONG! Education begins at home. Teaching your children right from wrong and you values of human life is what brings our state on top.

  11. The riddle to solve the public school failures is to minimize School District management of individual schools. As the first PTA President to fire a direct ballot Parent Trigger letter using Florida Parent Empowerment law 1002.33(3b), I can attest to its closed society ballot processes. that it is amended by changing the “and” to or in the voting guidelines parent will become guardians of individual school budgets. In due course, all of Florida will see parents saving budget surpluses in the overcrowded schools and renovating and modernizing school with the money. These schools can only become paradigm if parents if Teachers agree and vote in the separate ballot to convert the school to Parental Guardianship school. Otherwise, freedom of Speech will be suppressed as the Neva King Cooper case and ours demonstrated under present law voting guidelines. MDPS and UTD will intimidate all potential parent proponent to call the vote as I did in 2013 at the KB K8 Center. This campaign was part of an overall strategy of mine to get the MAST High School expansion for Key students. It was a pleasant experience as I subjected my daughter only in the fifth grade to abuse as the parent voting overwhelming against my proposal in a kill the messenger approach and the teachers voting 0-83 no.

  12. Today KB K8 Center was renovated instead of bulldozed as I suggested could be done with the budget surplus and a developers $9 million dollar contribution to VKB. Since the renovation four teachers, a past principal, and more than one parent have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Against Post Katrina FEMA regulation for barrier islands the K8 school sits below sea level should have been elevated like other portions of the school. Now it floods on casual downpours. Google “KB K8Center floods” on YouTube. Meanwhile, the MAST Academy magnet school on Virginia Key became another overcrowded middle school and high school which has a terrible waiting list as more Key Biscayne cannot ever attend than can. All this for $23 million that the city-funded and not repaid as stipulated in the inter-local agreement with MDPS.

    I personally am waiting to testify at trial in the Neva King Principals Fernandez, Cristobol v School Board of Miami-Dade County in defense of their Civil Rights trial in Federal Court. Only in America can liberals get this wrong for so long which as include recent Republicans Florida legislators Manny Diaz Mike Bileca Carlos Trujillo Kelli Stargell John Legg Matt Gaetz Sr., and Governor Scott. Scott read my daughter’s handwritten testimony in my presence, detailing the verbal abuse by a teacher and then altogether ignored my pleas to get the Parent Empowerment law amended in the recent MEGA Bill on education this year. Shame-Shame Grant.

  13. macontheRock rampage | June 2, 2018 at 9:54 pm | Reply

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