Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rep. Weatherford: Funding will be biggest issue on education committees

Rep. Will Weatherford, middle, listens as students learn how X-rays are used to treat animals. Weatherford will be on several education-related committees this session.

GAIL DIEDERICH | Times (2007)

Rep. Will Weatherford, middle, listens as students learn how X-rays are used to treat animals. Weatherford will be on several education-related committees this session.

State Rep. Will Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican, is a contender to be House speaker in 2012. This session he will serve on several education-related committees, including as chairman of the State and Community Colleges and Workforce Appropriations Committee. He shared his thoughts on the upcoming session, education funding and priorities for the next two years.

You're going to be on all these education committees and councils. What do you see as the key issues coming up during session?

Well, I think clearly funding is the biggest issue. You know right now, particularly when you talk about higher education, just access, being able to not only get into school but be able to have the funding to get in. When the economy slows down like it has, particularly there's problems in the work force, people want to go back to school and get a degree. We have to make sure we have those avenues available for people to go back and get the education they need, so when the economy comes back around they're more qualified and prepared for those higher quality jobs.

When you talk about the budget right now, just overall, what should we be looking for in education?

I think our hope is not to reduce our spending on education. I don't know if that's possible. I'll never say we guarantee we won't look at education. But my hope is that we don't cut education at all. I think everybody would agree that education in the state of Florida is underfunded, and we want to give them more money, not take money away. But we also have to understand and recognize we're facing the worst economy this state has seen in decades. And so we have to be realistic but also hopeful we protect the state's greatest resource, which is our children.

How is that possible? All the schools already are bracing for multimillion-dollar cuts.

Well, we're going to find out. Look, these are unprecedented times. This state has never seen the challenges that we're faced with right now from an economic standpoint. You talk with people who have been around the recessions in 1991, 1974, and they pale in comparison with what we're faced with. So it's hard to say I've got the answers the day I'm named the chairman of a committee.

That's why we have session. That's why we have committees, to look at all these issues to find the answers. Are there answers? One thing we do know is we face a very tough year. It is going to be tough and everybody has got to wrap their arms around each other and work together to get through it. Because the sun is going to come out again in the state of Florida. Days will get better in the future. But for the next 18 months, it's going to be extremely tough.

New taxes. Are they possible? Probable?

I hope we don't do new taxes. I don't think now is the time to put more taxes on the backs of people who are having a hard time paying their mortgage. Pasco County, for example, 60 percent of the people who have bought a home in the past five years have either gone through the process of foreclosure or are going through the process of foreclosure right now. So we have to be very, very careful.

I would never say new revenues won't be generated, because they could be. But my hope is that we reduce other areas of government where there's redundancy or overspending first, before we look at other areas of generating revenue.

What about your priorities? What are they?

My priority for the next two years is anything that creates jobs in the state of Florida. We want shovels turning dirt. We want people working. We want teachers in the classroom. We want students getting the quality education they need. Anything that will bring our economy forward and create jobs and get this economy moving forward, that is what I am pushing for.

Will that include an increased focus on the career academies?

Yeah. Absolutely. That's a long-term (goal). There's short-term economic development, like building roads. We know building roads creates jobs today. But there's also long-term economic development stimulus, in making sure that our work force, our kids, have the skills that they need to go out and compete. So I think that having career academies is a vital part of that. And also having a higher ed system, whether it's the community college level or the university system.

What about the issue that school district people keep raising: "If we're going to have less money, at least let us have more flexibility in how we use that money."

I am in favor of that. Absolutely. I'll tell you another thing. My hope is to challenge not just our school district but all school districts to come up with ideas of things that we can do to, what I would call taking the chains off, so to speak. If there's things in statute that are overburdening or don't make sense or have outlived their meaning, let's take a look at those, as long as they don't cost the state money. If they cost us money, they're hard to do. But there's things in statute I know that are out there that they're saying don't make sense and end up costing them more money. If we can help make their jobs more efficient, then maybe that's a way we can benefit them, since we don't have any more money.

Rep. Weatherford: Funding will be biggest issue on education committees 12/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 15, 2008 2:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Mother of double amputee Ireland Nugent to lose her own lower right leg

    Human Interest

    Ever since Ireland Nugent lost both her lower legs in a lawn-mowing accident five years ago, the Clearwater girl has inspired her mother, Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent, with the courage she has shown in overcoming the tragedy.

    Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent, left, looked on as her daughter Ireland threw out the first pitch when the Tampa Bay Rays played the Houston Astros at Tropicana Field on June 22, 2014. Jerry Nugent held his daughter for the pitch. Now Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent is facing surgery to amputate her own lower right leg due to a rare infection. WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times (2014)
  2. Chris Archer knocked out early as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Another short outing by Chris Archer led to another long afternoon for the Rays in a 9-4 loss to the Orioles on Sunday.

    Chris Archer has not gotten past four innings in four of his past five starts. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  3. Bucs-Vikings report card: Where's this explosive offense we heard about all offseason?


    O NO

    True, the Bucs defense looked pretty leaky in the 34-17 loss to the Vikings. But you know what needs to happen when the defense is getting torched? The offense needs to step up. In games such as these, with defensive players seemingly getting hurt every play, the offense needs to outscore the other …

    Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (26) intercepts a Jameis Winston pass intended for wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Bucs-Vikings: Instant analysis from Tampa Bay's 34-17 loss


    MINNEAPOLIS — Here's Rick Stroud and Tom Jones' instant analysis from the Bucs' 34-17 loss at Minnesota Sunday. More to come from Rick & Tom — and Greg Auman —- from Minneapolis later today.

    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright (17) dives over the pylon for a touchdown as  Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith (29) defends. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Worst-Case scenario: Case Keenum, Vikings hand Bucs 34-17 loss


    MINNEAPOLIS — With key defensive starters out with injury, the Bucs were dominated by the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, with fill-in quarterback Case Keenum beating Tampa Bay for the third year in a row, …

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]