Saturday, February 12, 2011

SB736 Heads to Senate Education Appropriations Committee

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Sandra in Brevard

SB736 got a unanimous vote in the Senate Pre-K12 Education Committee and will now be considered by the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education Pre-K12 Appropriation. The subcommittee is chaired by Senator David Simmons and Senator Bill Montford is VIce Chair. Committee members are Senators Nancy Detert, Paula Dockery, Anitere Flores, Evelyn Lynn, Jeremy Ring, Gary Siplin, and Stephen Wise. They will meet to discuss SB736 on February 15.

Some members of the Educations Appropriations subcommittee already showed some irritation with Governor Scott's budget plans for education that includes a 10 percent cut and a suggestion districts use this years funds to make up for the cut next year. Here are some highlights of their comments:

Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, cast doubt on Scott's suggestion to plug some of the hole with stimulus money districts were given to spend for the current school year. "I just don't think that's as straight an arrow as I would expect," said Lynn, chairwoman of the Republican Senate Conference. "I look at it as a little smoke and mirrors."

"Regifting," Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, interrupted.

"It seems a little bit improper," Lynn said.

Chairman David Simmons, R-Maitland, said some districts, including Broward - the state's second largest district, had already spent the money. Simmons said he's awaiting a report on all the districts.

"We'll have a better idea about whether this is real or not," Simmons said.

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander pointed out to the governor's budget staff in his committee that their math did not add up correctly. While the staff showed cuts of $4.6 bilion in spending, Alexander pointed out the "real cut" adds up to less than $3 billion.

Reaction from the House side was similar:
“A 10 percent reduction is a significant cut,” said committee Chairwoman Marti Coley, R-Marianna.

Coley and Rep. Janet Adkins scolded Scott’s office for trying to "have it both ways" with the education budget. Scott said he’s against the use of federal stimulus money, but his office tacitly encourages school districts to use the money to boost per-pupil spending.

“It’s imperative that you go back and you redo the numbers,” said Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach.

"Committee members also questioned why budget categories had been renamed and changed. The so-called FEFP — the state's complicated, longtime school-funding formula — gets a new moniker, for example, and is now the Education Choice Fund.

Such changes make it hard to compare Scott's spending proposal with prior years' budgets, they said. "I don't know how the math adds up," said Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland."

Reaction from Sandra In Brevard

Last year there was no detail on how much SB6 was going to cost. The Appropriations Committee must explain this year how much SB736 will cost and given the proposed cuts where the funds will come from precisely. And "fiscal impact is indeterminate" is not an acceptable response. If they do not develop a cost analysis, there's no point going forward.

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