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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

GOP House member Van Zant rejects SB 6 on financial grounds

7

April

VanzantFlorida state Rep. Charles Van Zant, a fairly conservative Putnam County Republican, has sent an e-mail to constituents that details why he views SB 6 as financially irresponsible.

Van Zant, whose son serves on the Clay School Board, contends that if the priorities of the bill are so important to Florida, the state should pay for it within the budget rather than create unfunded mandates and rely upon federal grants to make it happen:

"Scripture says we should drink from our own cistern. That means we should revise Florida’s budget to do what we believe is best for our 18 million citizens using money that is already ours."

There's a small but growing number of Republicans in the Florida House expressing their discontent with SB 6 / HB 7189, including Ron Schultz of Homosassa, Faye Culp of Tampa and Julio Robaina of Miami. The final vote is expected this week.

Read on to see Van Zant's full letter.

Thank you for contacting me regarding SB6/ HB 7189. Please know I have considered each point my colleagues have made in defense of the bill and have expressed my points of concern regarding the bill. There are serious problems regarding the cost HB 7189 and SB 6 will impose on local school boards in our state.

My Legislative District has 6 counties. That means I have 6 school boards, 6 Superintendents and several thousand teachers and non-teaching professionals. In addition, 2 of my 6 counties belong to the Northeast Florida Educational Consortium. Also, my District Office is located in the NEFEC complex. NEFEC serves 15 normal school districts including P.K. Young at the University of Florida and the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, St. Augustine. I attend NEFEC functions, sometimes am invited to address board meetings and have dialogue throughout the year with their leadership. Perhaps more than any other legislator, my legislative seat causes me to be simultaneously connected with 19 school districts in our state. My vote affects them all.

As the bill analysis and other related publications have explained, the first year cost to our district school boards is $900 million. Since Hillsborough County School District has been made exempt, that means on average, every other school district must spend more than $13.6 million the first year to prepare end of course assessment exams, administer them, perform additional record keeping and hopefully, have any amount left over for merit raises and bonus pay. This annual cost will rise year by year.... See More

To argue that the amount is only 5% of FEFP funding or that school districts should have already been preparing for this does not make any additional money materialize for them. They are operating on a slim budget and if we are going to force them to spend $900 million by mandate, we should also fund this legislation.

Regarding Race to the Top, I am against running after Washington carrots since that money has “strings attached” that will ultimately lead to what I believe will be forced teachings in our schools. Whatever Florida might receive will not pay for the mandate of SB 6 / HB 7189 or for this perceived federal impact to local school districts. To worsen this financial dilemma, the previous “stimulus” money will flame-out in a year.

This leaves the Seminole Gaming Compact, which I will also vote against. For us to go after gambling money to fund education is inherently wrong. Our children’s education should not be held out as the lure to deceptively entice our citizens to expand public gambling.

The way to fund SB 6 and HB 7189 is for us as the elected decision makers of Florida’s budget to revise our expenditures to fund this mandate. Scripture says we should drink from our own cistern. That means we should revise Florida’s budget to do what we believe is best for our 18 million citizens using money that is already ours.

Again, my thanks to you for giving me a chance to respond with my decision which remains No on HB 7189.

Sincerely,
Charles Van Zant
State Representative

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:57am]

    

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