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Group to suggest changes to school funding formula

There's hope for the educators who hate the way Florida pays for public schools: Change is on the way.

Education Commissioner Betty Castor on Monday appointed a seven-member panel to scrutinize, simplify and improve the public school funding formula that has for years been the subject of controversy, court suits, legislative fights and squabbles among school districts.

Former Florida State University President Bernie Sliger will be chairman of the panel. Also serving will be Marianne Edmonds, senior vice president at William R. Hough & Co. in St. Petersburg, and Steve Gavalas, vice president of tax administration at NationsBank in Tampa.

One of the main problems with the Florida Education Finance Program is that it's long, difficult to understand and boring, Castor said.

"By the time you get to the 10th or 12th page, people start to yawn."

The funding formula has also become unfair over the years, Castor said, even though its intent was to provide an equal education to students in Florida, no matter where they live.

The Education Department is now in the state Supreme Court over a Sarasota case involving key school funding issues.

The seven-member panel, assisted by an advisory group of school officials, will work on several goals, including equalizing educational opportunity throughout the state, providing adequate resources for student needs and promoting efficient use of school funds.

The group will work for the next three months in order to have proposals ready for the 1993 legislative session.

Other panel members are Robert A. Morris, chairman of the board of Ramar Group in Sarasota; Steve L. Evans, general manager of IBM in Tallahassee; Melvin T. Stith, dean of the college of business at FSU, and Paul Cejas, chairman of the board of CareFlorida Inc. in Miami.