Don’t let ads of soft-shoeing Democratic gubernatorial candidates or portrayals of these same candidates as demagogical, self-serving leeches fool you. Jeb Bush is trying to steer you away from the premiere issue of the upcoming gubernatorial election and with good reason. Summed up in three simple words: “It’s education, stupid.”
In all fairness, Bush did increase education funding last year. Under him, the state no longer provides a measly $4,923 per student, but rather the magnanimous sum of $4,949. Of course, the extra couple of bucks is supposed to pay for a rise in teacher’s salaries (it doesn’t), as well as the rising cost of facility maintenance, before factoring in inflation. In other words, Bush’s education plan did nothing for education.
Funding for your education at USF has dropped from $14,530 per student to $13,677, and that was before the Legislature trimmed $639 million from the education budget during the special session in January.
Florida public universities are dead last in the country in available funding. Funding for students in general ranks Florida 38th in the nation.
It’s difficult to put a finger on what exactly Jeb has done for education. He emphasizes his voucher program, a bad idea turned into bad policy. Vouchers are a way around spending money to improve schools.
Rather than give “failing” schools obviously needed funding, Jeb thinks it’s better to penalize these schools by moving students elsewhere.
The disastrous FCAT has forced teachers to stress the material taught on the FCAT so their schools grade well. After all, their pay raises depend on it. Meanwhile, students are bribed to show up on test weeks with giveaways of mountain bikes.
If you’re concerned about education, I recommend Bill McBride. McBride, a former Tampa lawyer whose children attend public school, has made education the crux of his campaign.
He plans on using real money to mend Florida’s education woes by investing nearly a billion dollars to improve Florida’s dysfunctional schools. Fully half goes to teacher wage increases, which average a paltry $37,824. The increase of nearly $2,500 is much deserved and will encourage professional teachers to come to Florida. Funding for improved kindergarten programs and smaller class sizes are also included in the McBride program.
Bush and Co. have been making out as if to pay for these programs, McBride is going to tax you back to the Stone Age. This is not true: The majority of McBride’s funding will come from a $.50 tax on packs of cigarettes, a program the Legislature would dare not veto.
The other half will come from careful fiscal discipline that will actually prevent any new taxes, less the cigarette tax, from being created.
Voting for Bill McBride could better the future of education in the state of Florida. Even an insufficiently educated Florida fourth grader could tell you that.
Joe Roma is a junior majoring in political science. firstname.lastname@example.org