What does "harmless" mean?
As lawmakers squabble over property tax reform, the Florida Education Association wants them to remember the pledge to hold schools harmless. It's a critical promise, the teachers' union asserts, as Florida's education system already lags near the bottom in several key funding areas. Rather than rephrase, we'll let their words speak. This is how their latest action alert reads:
Ever since our current fiscal crisis became apparent back in June, we have heard may political leaders say that the education budget should be "held harmless" while the Legislature sought to adjust the budget and provide needed property tax relief to those who have seen large increases. We weren't thrilled with the concept, because public education in Florida has been chronically underfinanced for decades. We see it every day as Florida is compared to other states in education spending, where we're always near the bottom in those comparisons. We feel it every paycheck as salaries for teachers and ESPs lag thousands of dollars behind other states.
We've checked our 10-pound, 2,100-page dictionary for an alternative definition of the word "harmless," but we haven't come up with one. The proposals on the table in Tallahassee may reduce education revenues up to $2.07 BILLION. When you add the most recent $270 million budget cut from last week's Special Session C, the total reduction in revenues over the next five years could be $2.34 BILLION if the Legislature passes and voters approve the proposal to "reform" property taxes.
The group then urges everyone to contact their lawmakers and hold them to their word as they work their way through the special session.