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State, federal cuts begin to hit home in Florida schools

The ink isn't even dry on Florida's 2011-12 budget, and already the bad news has started flowing.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards took time from Teacher Appreciation Week to let Florida's National Board certified teachers that their bonuses, which have been shrinking, won't be coming next year.

"This occurred despite our best efforts, the daily work of our representatives in Tallahassee, and your individual contact with legislators," regional outreach director Karen Garr wrote.

"I know that this is demoralizing and that it may make you angry. I hope you will remember that this was not the decision of the National Board. It was not even the wish of some members of the Legislature. It was a result of the truly awful economic situation in the state and a lack of understanding among some of the policymakers of the value National Board Certification.

"There is much darkness in this news, but there is also a glimmer of light. The language of the Dale Hickam Excellent Teaching Act remains intact. This means that there is a place in statute to which we can return next year to ask for reinstatement of funding."

Recipients of federal Learn and Serve grants, which have supported community service education projects in Florida since 1992, also learned they won't be getting any more grants. "All awards-whether to Pilot, Renewal, or Non-Competitive programs-are contingent upon receipt of the federal funds which have now been cut. Plans for the 2011 Florida Service-Learning Institute have also been cancelled," Florida Learn and Serve director Joe Follman wrote to schools.

At least one Pasco County middle school is trying to make alternative plans to continue its service program. Seven Springs Middle School teacher Cindy Tehan sent this memo out on Thursday:

"We believe that the program of service that we have established at SSMS is an exemplary one. We have earned the support of students, parents, faculty, county commissioners and school board. We believe that our hard work will result in continued support from our community. ... We would like to promote a multi-faceted approach to acquiring the $20,000 for next school year."

The school is planning several fund raisers. Stay tuned for more cuts, and perhaps grassroots responses, to come.