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This is how bad things have gotten for public schools in Florida: A key Republican lawmaker has suggested that the idea of raising taxes will not be DOA when the Legislature meets again. "We're in an economic crisis mode ... and what I believe we need to do is that at a minimum have a conversation about these potential sources of revenue," incoming House Deputy Majority Leader Anitere Flores told Gradebook. "We're at a point where Floridians need to ask themselves, are we willing to take further reductions (to education) without looking at increased revenue?" She also said the Legislature should consider raising cigarette taxes.

More practical arts

Talk around Florida was that career-oriented practical arts were on their way out because of changed graduation requirements. The worry was that teens would have more limited opportunities to take classes that might add meaning to their careers. The state Department of Education has responded by releasing a new list of eligible courses last week, and instead of about a dozen, it included 215 options. The state Board of Education still must approve the list.

Pay on the way

As expected, the Hillsborough School Board approved the HCTA-ratified contracts late Tuesday. Superintendent MaryEllen Elia then sent employees an e-mail letting them know: "Eligible employees will receive their new salaries - in addition to the retroactive pay - in their checks on November 21st. (The increased salaries are retroactive back to July 1.)"

Impasse in Pasco

Pasco schools employees union has told the state that it can't reach an agreement with the administration over this year's contract and has asked for a special magistrate to intervene. "I think the superintendent's unwillingness to make good on her promises to guarantee employee benefits and to continually delay financial negotiations is disingenuous at best," union president Lynne Webb said.

The Rays can do it

Florida is a far cry from a leader in education spending. But Board of Education member Akshay Desai doesn't think that must mean a bad outcome. He used the Tampa Bay Rays' success as an example at a board meeting this past week in Tampa. "They have one of the least payrolls compared to all the other teams in the nation." Fellow board member Roberto Martinez swiftly responded. "Our approach to education has been very research-based, it's been thoughtful, it's been comprehensive, it's been reform-minded. But we need money to make those things work," he said. "The analogy to the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team is cute, but it's not realistic."

Gradebook contributors: Ron Matus and Jeffrey S. Solochek.