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Understanding the Impact of the GOP’s Failed K-12 Education Policies

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DATE: 10/11/12 
FROM: Brannon Jordan, Florida Democratic Party Communications Director 
TO: Interested parties, reporters
RE: Understanding the Impact of the GOP’s Failed K-12 Education Policies
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Understanding the Impact of the GOP’s Failed K-12 Education Policies 

The Republican’s cuts to Florida’s K-12 education system have had a devastating impact on the state’s parents, teachers and students.  The Florida GOP cut funding for the state’s education system for five consecutive years – including cutting $1.3 billion in 2011 alone – and this year failed to restore funding to the same levels. 

In addition to these cuts, the GOP’s Voucher Scheme is draining even more money from the education system that families rely on – robbing parents of local control over schools while recklessly giving tax dollars to out of state corporations that want to profit off our children’s education. 

And while there is a general agreement that the Republican’s have reduced investments in schools which are critical to growing our state’s economy, this memo will examine the impact of the GOP’s K-12 education policies which are hurting our education system – increasing class sizes, forcing teacher layoffs and cuts to important programs like athletics, arts and music in our schools. 

The GOP’s Years of Cuts to Education 

After five consecutive years of GOP budget cuts to the state’s K-12 education system, Florida ranks 48th in per-pupil spending according to the NEA, trailing only Arizona and Utah. In 2011, Florida ranked 50th in the nation in per-capita spending per student, 44th in graduation rate, 47th in teacher pay and 48th in college entrance exam scores. 

The GOP’s much touted election year increase in education spending during the 2012 legislative session did not make up for their five consecutive years of cuts – and in fact, did not even make up for the previous year’s cut of $1.3 billion. In the words of St. Johns County Superintendent Joseph Joyner, “an increase is not always an increase.”  

Additionally, the GOP’s spending priorities for education funding are draining millions from public schools and sending tax dollars to out of state corporations who want to profit off our children’s education.  

In 2011, Florida Republicans stopped public schools from receiving PECO – or Public Education Capital Outlay – program money. However, in the same year, the GOP allocated the state’s $55 million in PECO funding to charters.  

Public schools -- which also traditionally relied on PECO funding for construction and repairs -- received zero dollars from the legislature in 2012 for construction and maintenance, forcing public schools to put off projects such as “repairs to roofs and air-conditioners.”  

GOP Cuts Force Teacher Layoffs and Class Room Size to Swell 

The GOP’s cuts to K-12 education funding and their Voucher Scheme which is draining millions from public education is hurting parents, teachers and students – forcing schools to eliminate teachers and causing class room sizes to expand. 

Some examples of the impacts of these cuts from across the state include: 

  • In Orange County, schools were forced to eliminate 1,300 teachers.
  • Seminole County was forced to close Long Wood Elementary and send students elsewhere.
  • In Broward County, cuts to education funding caused 1,400 teachers to be fired, swelling class room sizes: “high school classes that were once capped at 25 students now hold up to 40. Some kindergarten through third-grade teachers, who once had 18 kids in a class, now have to merge with another class - two teachers with 30-40 students in one room…Keen, who has been a teacher for 40 years, has 36 students packed into a portable - 11 over the limit.” 
  • In Miami Dade County, class sizes for AP and other college prep courses increased to more than 54 students and some students had classrooms without enough desks.
  • Pasco County was forced to eliminate 513 positions. 

While the state does have legal restrictions on class sizes, Florida Republicans also found ways to circumvent these requirements by passing a law allowing more than 500 courses, including foreign language and Advance Placement classes – to be exempt from these class size restrictions.  

For more examples from across the state, please see this report from the Campaign for America’s Future.  

GOP Forced Cuts to Programs Like Arts and Athletics  

It’s not just class sizes that are suffering because of the GOP’s cuts: schools are being forced to do away with vital programs that traditionally define public education like sports, arts and music. 

Some examples of these impacts include: 

  • Volusia County eliminated 9th grade sports.
  • In Broward County, 44 elementary schools cut art programs and 20 schools eliminated music.
  • Duval County was forced to cancel the purchase of science texts.  
  • Schools in Pinellas County eliminated 37 guidance counselors. 
  • Miami Dade cut after school programs for up to 4,500 young children. 
  • Tarpon High School eliminated all drama courses and all instructional coaching positions. 
  • Lake Howell School cut purchases of copy paper and bus transportation. 
  • Seminole County considered raising thermostats to 78-degrees (the highest allowed by state law).

For more examples from across the state, please see this report from the Campaign for America’s Future. 

An Issue of Values and Priorities 

While Republicans blamed difficult choices for their devastating cuts to public schools – the GOP still found taxpayer money to give handouts to corporate special interests and the wealthiest few – passing a budget that the Tampa Bay Times called a “study in pork-barrel spending, reckless policy and a shortchanged future.” 

Republicans made their choice: drain millions of dollars from our school system, hurting our parents, teachers and students, and keep playing the same old broken Tallahassee politics. That’s why Florida Democrats are highlighting the impact of these reckless policies, and standing up for middle class families to support our public school system.  

Download the memo here.