Pasco schools to end funding request for aeronautics program

The regional initiative has not won state money in recent years.
Students watch teacher Wendy Stanley guide a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 with an iPad during a 2014 class in unmanned aircraft systems at Sunlake High School. BRENDAN FITTERER | Times
Students watch teacher Wendy Stanley guide a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 with an iPad during a 2014 class in unmanned aircraft systems at Sunlake High School. BRENDAN FITTERER | Times
Published February 19

Citing its inability to gain support over the past few years, the Pasco County school district administration plans to remove its request for state funding of a regional aeronautics program from its 2019 legislative platform.

“We haven’t gotten it” in recent years, and it appears unlikely that trend will change, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

The program launched in 2014 with $2 million from the state, as part of a wider initiative to grow programs associated with the blossoming airline, unmanned aircraft and aerospace industries. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was expanding its presence across Florida at the time with new dual-enrollment courses.

Pasco and Pinellas counties were part of that initiative.

Interest has remained, and the programs have grown into more campuses. But state support has dwindled.

In 2017, then-Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $750,000 the Legislature had appropriated for the effort. In 2018, then-Rep. Danny Burgess requested $1 million. His bill didn’t make it out of the Appropriations Committee into the final budget.

This time out, the district leadership appears ready to just move on. It doesn’t mean the courses will end — they’ve continued despite the past two years of legislative inaction. It just means they’re acknowledging the likelihood of getting state funding is extremely low.

“I guess we need to look and see the sustainability of the program without it,” board chairwoman Alison Crumbley said.

The School Board plans to review its legislative platform during a workshop at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon, in the Wesley Chapel High School cafeteria.

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