Thursday, May 24, 2018
Education

DeWitt: Education funding gives Ingoglia a chance to prove he's not a politician

It's been one of the major head-scratchers of the run-up to this year's session of the Florida Legislature:

Doom-and-gloom budget forecasts, especially from the House of Representatives, at a time when Florida's economy seems to be humming along.

What gives?

How did we go from a budget surplus of $636 million this year to the forecast of $7.5 million for 2017-18 and, far more concerning, big deficits in the two years after that?

Well, that sort of thing tends to happen when lawmakers trying to look like anti-tax crusaders turn their backs on $450 million in school revenue.

That's the amount the state would have raised this year had the Legislature merely kept the local education property tax rate the same rather than reducing it to the revenue-neutral "rollback" rate.

Even more alarming, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes — speaker of the House and possible candidate for governor — is determined to do it again this session.

The thing is, what he's fighting against is not really a tax increase, though, true enough, it is defined that way under state law.

In fact, this source of money seems to fit perfectly with the most cherished Republican tax philosophy: Keep the tax rate low and the unburdened economy will respond with the increased revenues that come with robust growth.

Also appealing to free-market advocates: The burden of this tax is naturally self-correcting, climbing when times are good and dropping when property values in Florida take their periodic, inevitable nosedive.

The Legislature has been willing to see it this way for years. Until last year, lawmakers stuck with the tradition of leaving the education tax rate level. Senators, including our own Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, seem inclined to do the same during this year's session. And Gov. Rick Scott has already committed to that path in the proposed budget he released last week.

There are, it almost goes without saying, lots of problems with Scott's plan, including that it essentially diverts those increased local property tax revenues to big handouts to business — an idea that Corcoran, to his credit, steadfastly opposes.

But Scott's budget does recognize what is already proving to be the case — that the revenue picture is somewhat brighter than initial forecasts suggested — and, more importantly, that Florida's schools need money.

The Hernando County School District is just starting to emerge from a long trek through the financial wilderness, recently passing its first cut-free budget since 2008 and still limping along with inadequate reserves and scanty arts and music programs.

State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill — who did not respond to my emailed questions about this issue — has been able to cast himself as a savior in this regard, helping the district secure more than $2 million in "sparsity funding" for small districts, and $500,000 to start a program for mentally ill elementary and middle school students.

But the district recently pulled a request for money to continue that program after hearing discouraging budget news from Ingoglia's office — possibly abandoning kids with desperate, unmet needs — which shows exactly why this approach is no substitute for a long-term plan.

In fact it's just the kind of splashy temporary fix that has helped make the label "politician" the ultimate political slur, as Ingoglia himself showed last year when he sent out a campaign flier proclaiming "BLAISE IS NOT A POLITICIAN."

This is a clearly ridiculous statement from someone who probably started counting votes on the playground, and who was re-elected recently not only to the House but as chairman of his state party.

He's a politician through and through and, as becomes more obvious all the time, a highly skilled and powerful one. In fact, he's becoming one of the few House members who might actually be able to influence policy in Tallahassee.

He wants to say he's not the kind of politician who gives his calling a bad name?

He needs to prove it.

Contact Dan DeWitt at [email protected]; follow @ddewitttimes.

Comments
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school more than two years ago, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently declared their relationship in the halls of North Bend High School by holding hands.They knew coming out would be hard in the ...
Published: 05/24/18
What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

CLINTON, N.Y. — In the days after her son Graham hanged himself in his dormitory room at Hamilton College, Gina Burton went about settling his affairs in a blur of efficiency, her grief tinged with a nagging sense that something did not add up.She fi...
Published: 05/24/18
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18