Chairman Smith: The problem isn’t our public schools or our children — the problem is the Republicans in Tallahassee
TALLAHASSEE, FL — As the Florida Department of Education prepares to release FCAT scores to schools today, Floridians should place the blame for our failing public schools squarely at the feet of Governor Rick Scott and the Republican controlled legislature in Tallahassee which has led a multi-year assault on Florida’s education system and failed Florida’s children.
“The problem isn’t our public schools or our children — the problem is that the Republican Party has demonstrated a complete inability to run Florida’s public education system,” said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith. “Over the last decade, Republicans have railed against public schools, consistently underfunded them, required our teachers to teach to an ever-changing test and then feigned surprise when our students performed poorly. If you’re looking for the reason why Florida’s children continue to fall further and further behind the rest of this country, look no further than Tallahassee and the failed educational policies of every Republican administration.”
The State Board of Education recently held an emergency meeting to change some of the FCAT grading criteria in response to student scores: Under this new measurement, 80-percent of fourth graders pass, but originally only 27-percent earned passing grades. Similarly, for eighth graders, the percentage of passing students was changed from 33-percent to 77-percent under the new criteria, and for tenth graders it jumped from 38 to 84-percent.
READ THE FACTS ABOUT THE GOP’S LONG RECORD OF FAILING FLORIDA’S CHILDREN:
The “FCAT fiasco points up failures at the top.” “What it means is that there is too much emphasis on standardized tests and that the state’s manipulation of the rules render the test scores meaningless.” [Tampa Bay Times editorial, 5/16/2012]
Under the GOP, Florida ranks 48th in per-pupil spending, trailing only Arizona and Utah. [National Education Association, 2011 Rankings and 2012 Estimates]
Under the GOP, per-student funding has fallen by $750 per student. “When the dust settled late Friday night, Republican leaders had restored just $844 million of last year’s $1.35 billion cut to public schools. And due to enrollment growth, the additional cash will translate to just $150 more per student next year, far less than the $542 cut per student in the current school year. Just how far has Florida’s commitment to public school students fallen in five years? About $750 per student.” [Herald Tribune, 3/11/2012]
The GOP sent per-student funding to the lowest level in six years. “That sent per-student funding tumbling to its lowest level in six years…But the average $6,375-per-student spending in the budget slated to take effect July 1 will be the second lowest level since 2005-06. It’s well off the average $7,143-per-student Florida was spending in 2008 — when the recession tightened its grip on the state” [Palm Beach Post, 4/9/2012]
Under the GOP, Florida’s teachers make $10,000 less than the national average. Florida’s average teacher salary is $46,232, which is more than $10,000 less than the national average of $56,643. Florida ranks 45th in the nation in teacher salary. [National Education Association, 2011 Rankings and 2012 Estimates]
Under the GOP, Florida’s teachers-pay is among the lowest in the country. “Last year, we let you know that Florida teacher pay, after several years of big budget cuts, was headed to No. 47 in the country.” This was a decrease from 2010, when “An annual ranking of public school teachers’ salaries by state shows Florida at No. 35 — down from 28 the previous year, according to the report by the National Education Association.” [Tampa Bay Times, 1/12/12; Orlando Sentinel, 2/3/2010]
The GOP has continually slashed education funding over a number of years. “In 2009, state lawmakers cut $466 million in education funding. In 2011, they cut $1.3 billion.” [Miami Herald, 1/1/12]
This year the GOP failed to restore K-12 funding to the same level following the historic cuts they made the previous session. “Yet education is shortchanged from years of cuts, leaving Florida with a dismal record in K-12 and higher education…Given that this year’s $1 billion increase didn’t even make up for the $1.3 billion cut in education funding last year” [Florida Times Union editorial, 4/20/2012]
The GOP 2012-2013 budget includes $0 for public school construction and repair. “Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, raised another issue: no construction and maintenance money for traditional public schools. Charter schools are set to receive $55 million.” [Miami Herald, 3/7/2012]
Under the GOP, Florida schools were booted from the top 10. “The state’s school system dropped from No. 5 to No. 11 in the annual “Quality Counts” report card issued by Education Week, a national publication.” [Miami Herald, 1/12/2012]
The GOP is “shortchanging the future by insisting on special interest tax breaks rather than adequately funding Florida’s needs.” “But the reality is Florida still will spend less next year per student than it did before Scott took office in 2011 and roughly $800 less than in 2007. The Legislature — and Scott — are still shortchanging the future by insisting on special interest tax breaks rather than adequately funding Florida’s needs… Acting the part of education governor is no substitute for true advocacy. Until Scott goes beyond sound bites to demand lawmakers make significant new investment in Floridians and their future, his staged performances don’t square with reality.” [Tampa Bay Times editorial, 4/18/12]