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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Support a school, advertise on a school bus



School_bus_030505_01b With their finances stretched, most Florida school districts are talking about ways to cut spending for another year. As we saw in this morning's news roundup, they're looking at closing programs, merging schools and more.

Senate Education Appropriations chairman Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, has reintroduced an idea that in better times has gone nowhere, thinking it might bring districts a little extra cash.

He's suggesting that districts be allowed to sell advertising on school buses.

"I had this bill many years ago. ... Everybody said no," Wise told the Gradebook. "If this piece of revenue comes in, it could be used by the school districts to do some things they otherwise couldn't do. It seems like it's a good time."

In another cost-saving move (that just might raise a few hackles over safety concerns), the bill also would cut the amount of transportation that districts must provide to students. Specifically, it would require districts to bus middle and high school students who live 3 miles from school instead of the current 2 miles.

Wise said the state faces another huge revenue shortfall, and lawmakers will be looking for "efficiencies" within the system as well as any potential savings to make ends meet. That list could include reducing School Board member salaries and eliminating school district cell phones, he said, but those are only small pieces of the whole.

"The real problem is class size," Wise said, citing the multibillion-dollar cost of implementing the 2002 amendment.

The situation might compromise the end-of-course exam initiative. House Pre-K-12 Policy Committee chairman John Legg acknowledged that it could cost some money to develop and replace exams beyond just trading off one test for another.

And, said Wise, if bills "have money in them, I will assure you when they get to my committee, they probably will not be heard."

The Legislature begins its 60-day session this morning. It could get ugly. Stay tuned.

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[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:52am]


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