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EDITORIAL: Amendment 1 impairs education grads, students

Students graduating with education degrees will soon feel the pain of narrowing employment opportunities in Florida.

In addition to the widespread strain induced by ongoing budget cuts, the recently enacted Amendment 1 is further dwindling the monetary resources for education in the state.

Included on the Jan. 29 primary ballot, Amendment 1 changed how property taxes are assessed. Property taxes provide 76 percent of funding in areas such as Manatee County, which is preparing to cut $76 million over the next five years from its $335 million annual budget.

It is also facing hiring downsizes by as much as 85 percent for the next year, leaving the options for education grads in the area pretty bleak.

Sarasota County is in a similar position, with a paltry 100 vacant teaching positions listed in the county, compared to the 250 new teachers hired last year. Roy Sprinkle, director of human resources for Sarasota County, said most of these positions may soon be eliminated or filled by shuffling current employees.

“It’s just the opposite of where we’ve been for the past six or seven years,” Sprinkle said. “Now we’re hiring little if any.”

For years, the dire call for more teachers has been made to reform Florida’s position as the second-worst state in the nation for the quality of its K-12 public education. With the passage of Amendment 1 and the accompanying steep decrease in teacher hiring, however, the state is practically sprinting toward last place.

Not only is this sudden hiring reduction to the detriment of education grads who have had ideas of how in-demand they are drilled into their heads for years, but it is also to the detriment of students.

With fewer incoming teachers, class sizes will inevitably grow, limiting the quality of education provided in Florida classrooms.

“As budgets get tighter and tighter, it is very possible that we could wind up with physical education or music classes with 60 to 70 students,” said Robert Dearing, superintendent of Manatee County’s school district.

Such consequences bring into question the choices of Florida voters who complain of the state’s poor education system and then vote for a bill that robs it of much of its budget.

In fact, it was only a few years ago that Floridians voted in favor of smaller class sizes. How do they expect to accomplish this without teachers to back it up?

While replacement sources should have been in place to make up for the lack of property taxes flowing into public school budgets, it is ultimately the responsibility of voters to consider the repercussions of an act and whether it is a viable option before voting.

Until then, education grads and students will just have to suffer.