Editorial: Education needs proper funding

Public schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas and surrounding counties are expecting a severe funding shortfall. In response to the funding deficit, hiring has been frozen for at least a year, and pay cuts and layoffs are expected as well.

Instead of cutting the number of teachers and lowering current teachers’ salaries, Gov. Jeb Bush should step in and help public schools. Bush should cut extraneous expenditures first, even target tax exemptions for companies that do not really need them, as was suggested by Jack Levine, president for the Center for Florida’s Children.

The Sept. 11 attacks have brought promises of economic slowdown, especially in Florida as tourism decreases with the lucrative tax money it brought to the state. Hillsborough county schools are preparing for the worst. Hillsborough County

Superintendent Earl Lennard recommended a hiring freeze that will last at least a year, six more months than he earlier proposed. He also stated that there may be layoffs, though teachers would be the last to be cut. While teachers may not lose their jobs, they do stand to lose about 1 percent of their salaries if the economy does not improve.

While Lennard is trying to cut budgets across the county by limiting travel and freezing hiring, this will only cause more problems in the future, especially since most school districts (including those in the Bay area) are already experiencing a severe shortage of teachers.

School leaders are meeting with Gov. Bush next week to determine what will be cut from Florida’s overall budget to counter the expected $928.5 million deficit. Bush should be generous when considering education and make cuts elsewhere first.

We, as a nation, cannot afford to sacrifice and cut corners on education. It already suffers enough from poor funding and low salaries. Freezing the hiring of new teachers will create a different deficit that the state cannot afford to counter.