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Senate panels approve education budgets



By unanimous votes, the Senate preK-12 and higher education appropriations committees approved proposed budgets for the 2009-10 school year today, with both panels touting little or no net reductions to funding.

In preK-12, per-student funding holds steady at the 2008-09 level of $6.860.36. This is achieved primarily by using federal stimulus funds and by including money from a proposed gaming compact. Outside of per-student funding, programs take a 15 percent cut.

"It's painful, it's difficult and it's not over," said committee chairman Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville.

In higher education, the committee started by passing Sen. Ken Pruitt's bill to allow all state universities to raise tuition by as much as 15 percent every year until they reach the national average. Revenue from that measure, as well as an 8 percent hike in community college tuition, staves off some cuts.  

Members of both committees expressed concern over banking on stimulus money and an unapproved gaming compact, with Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, asking his higher education colleagues whether there's a "fallback plan."

Panel chair Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, said there are a variety of proposals floating around that could close such a gap, but admitted: "We would be in a huge hole if we didn't get those dollars."

In K-12, chair Wise said it "becomes problematic" without those extra dollars.


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