Florida is still fighting for 2.4 billion federal stimulus dollars to spend on education. The money is in limbo as punishment for deep spending cuts to Florida schools.
Governor Charlie Crist is confident Florida will receive the money and as he’s asking lawmakers to use the money to save teaching jobs.
Because of its poor funding history, Florida must get a waiver to qualify for a total of 3.4 billion federal dollars to spend on education. The State has yet to receive the application. Governor Charlie Crist says the money should be used to save teaching jobs.
“It would forestall any layoffs.”
But teaching salaries are an annual expense. Rep. David Aronberg says using the stimulus money on reoccurring costs will simply make the budget problem worse in the future.
“I don’t like to do it. I don’t think the governor wants to do it, but it’s a necessity this year, because the alternative is to raise taxes in the middle of a recession, or to cut education further.”
Neither the Governor’s Office or the Department of Education know exactly how the money will be spent. Lawmakers will have a big say so in divvying up the funds.
If lawmakers side with three student groups that rallied at the state capitol last week teaching positions would be saved. The money could also be used to renovate schools, update technology, and save programs.
But Mark Pudlow of Florida’s largest teachers union says the money will do the most good if it’s spent to prevent layoffs.
“If those teachers, if those bus drivers, those cafeteria workers, aren’t in school, if they aren’t earning income that way then they have to find a job some place else.”
Out-of-work teachers would likely end up in need of state assistance programs.
The US Department of Education will try to figure out if Florida cut education deeper than it cut spending other areas of the budget over the last two year. If the state did, the waiver could be denied.