House Schools and Learning chairman Joe Pickens has set his no-cut preference list - things like online education and college financial aid are among the options. The goal, he tells the Gradebook, is to make mindful cuts as the Legislature trims $1-billion from the budget.
House leaders "are definitely looking for some thoughtful perspective, and not just some across-the-board cut," Pickens says. After all, an across-the-board cut would hurt an agency that gets 75 percent of its funding from the state much more than one that gets just a third of its cash from the state, he notes.
One idea Pickens has taken a liking to comes from Pasco County school leaders, who have asked for the ability to use their class-size reduction money without so many strings attached - so long as the law's essential mandates are met.
He said the council is "definitely considering" a one-year delay in moving to classroom counts. It also is looking at canceling the penalty for noncompliance with the class-size amendment for the current year. (Districts that don't meet the mark each year automatically have some of their operating money put into capital projects.)
No one is talking about changing the 2010-11 deadline for all core classes meeting the teacher-student ratio set forth in the amendment. These ideas face a long road, as they're less popular in the Senate than in the House.
As lawmakers move ahead, Pickens says, the general public should keep some perspective on what's happening. Sure, districts don't like to get less money than they were allocated in the spring. No one likes to trim spending. But per-student funding still will be up 4-1/2 percent from last year, regardless.
"In a lot of other years, it is more than it would have been in the first place," Pickens observed.