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Florida bills will hurt education

As the Florida legislature approaches the end of its session, several bills relating to education are up for vote. The proposed budget for 2009-2010 will cut spending on education by nearly $1 billion.

The cuts will affect advanced classes in high schools—classes legislators are encouraging students to take while simultaneously planning on making serious cuts to them.

The state is cutting funding, but still expects public schools to hold students to higher standards. A bill advocated by former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future will raise curriculum requirements for high school students, according to the Miami Herald. Students will be required to take Algebra 2, geometry, Biology 1 and chemistry.

Students will also be expected to score higher on the tenth grade FCAT. How schools will be able to create or expand these classes and improve FCAT preparation on a reduced budget remains to be seen.

Last year, the state spent $100 million on advanced placement and International Baccalaureate classes. It sent only $66 million this year to the districts, and the current proposals may cut next year’s spending by another 50 percent, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Under the Senate version of the bill, funding to Hillsborough schools will drop from $5.7 million to $2.8 million.

Another bill will allow state universities to raise tuition by as much as 15 percent every year, according to The Miami Herald. Tuition can only go as high as the national average, but the tuition increase will not be covered Bright Futures. What does this have to do with anything? How do budget cuts have to do with higher tuitions? I want to cut it, unless you can tie it in somehow…

Funds may also be cut to Florida Virtual School, a program with ever-increasing popularity. Under current law, Virtual School qualifies as a school district and receives funding to keep class sizes within the legal limit. This money represents 15 percent of the school’s state funding and allows it to keep the student-teacher ratio at 170-1, according to the Tampa Tribune. Virtual School classes do not meet in classrooms, so legislatures do not see the need for the funding it currently receives.

In an economic downturn, education is often the first thing to suffer the burden of budget cuts. If these bills pass, public schools will face yet another setback in a long series of cuts to funding.