Pasco superintendent responds to Rick Scott's stance on local school budget cuts
We reported over the weekend about Mitchell High junior Justice Greene and her pleas to Gov. Rick Scott to not cut education funding. The arts, Justice wrote, are too important to be eliminated, and yet that's one of the places her and other school districts were looking to save money.
Scott, through a spokesman, responded that local districts decide what to cut, not the people in Tallahassee who approve the state's budget. He sent Justice's concerns to Pasco superintendent Heather Fiorentino.
Fiorentino sent Justice a diplomatic response late Friday, one that acknowledges that, yes, local officials make the final call, but it's a "forced" decision that comes from years of cutting state funds. Most important, Fiorentino wrote, is that Justice showed the initiative to do something about it. Read on for her full letter.
Thank you for taking the time to write Governor Scott regarding the fuding of education in the state of Florida. The Governor's Office sent me a copy of your letter, and I enjoyed reading it. You are absolutely correct that funding should be a priority because the quality of education provided to students will impact both their personal future and the future of our state. It is wonderful that you have taken the initiative to contact your elected officials and express your concern. That is exactly what active citizenship is all about, and I am proud of your efforts.
While the response your received is accurate in the sense that decisions about the funding of specific programs are made at the local level, our Board can only allocate the money that is provided by the state of Florida. When the funding is cut as dramatically as it has been over the last four years, the Board is forced to make many difficult decisions. This year our Board had a $54 million shortfall. We did our best to make reductions to programs and services, rather than to completely eliminate services to students because we agree with you that a well-rounded education is a vital part of providing a quality education.
Again, thank you for expressing your concern and for your passionate advocacy on behalf of public education. Keep up the great work!
Here's Justice's original letter:
Mr. Rick Scott,
As a high school student, education is important. We hear daily that we are the future and school is important. Ever since we've grown up, our lives have been centered around education and its top importance. In elementary school, school was our everything. We enjoyed going there. In middle school our joy slipped away somewhat and in high school, getting through school is difficult. I'm sure you remember your high school days. Waiting as the clock ticks by for that final bell. Well, the drama department at JW Mitchell High School in Pasco County is one of the only reasons I enjoy school. We have put on many excellent productions, including Sleeping Beauty, Fiddler on the Roof, Peter Pan and Annnie Get Your Gun. Hearing that our drama department and drama teacher might be taken away from us was a complete shock. Some of us depend on Mr. David O'Hara to make our days better. He is one of the only teachers that we can talk to and if we need a place to go during lunch or after school, we know he's there. I know, personally, I look forward to my third period acting class every day. I have learned so much from him in my two years of school than any other teacher. He has taught me the importance to respect adults and trust what they do. He has shown me how strong actors need to be to coexist peacefully on stage. He has taught me many important techniques that have not only made me a better student and performer, but also helped me decide what I want to do in college, which is performing arts. Now, with this education cut, his job and many others are at risk. It is not fair to anyone to cut these jobs. These kids are our future and without the proper education, our generation will not succeed. We need teachers, assistants, and extra curricular activities to help us succeed. Having multiple teachers for a subject limits class sizes. Having a smaller class means more one on one work with students, which is needed. Larger classes mean less time to work with students and make sure they fully understand each topic being learned. Assistants are there to not only help students who don't understand something but to help teachers. Teachers are stressed, with many budget cuts and a lot of work put on them. Extra curricular activities are the reason a lot of students not only stay in school, but keep their grades higher. Without these activities, many individuals would drop out. So, in conclusion, education cuts are extremely unnecessary. It is unfair to us students to not have the education we deserve.
High School Student at J.W. Mitchell High School