Dear Governor Scott,
Are our legislators attempting to set a Guinness Record for record-breaking time to pass the most controversial legislation ever through a state? Have the rallying cries, protests, and turmoil in Wisconsin taught Florida legislators anything? We are a nation governed around laws; not a nation governed around power crazed men attempting to bypass laws.
Governor Scott, I'm pleading with you to please insist that all perspectives are heard and that the democratic process takes priority with regards to the "Teacher Quality" Bill. I agree with the authors of this inappropriately named Bill (736), who proudly boast that, this bill will overhaul public education unlike ever before. They are right. It will. That is precisely why this Bill must be given every opportunity to be discussed, amended, then enacted properly.
This legislature has placed the "Teacher Quality" Bill (736) on a high speed train of its own! Unfortunately, it has a one-way track.
SB 736 is now scheduled for a full and final vote March 9th. That is just one day after the Senate Session re-opens. This is being packaged as a Joint Resolution. This strategy allows our legislature to disallow Amendments. Hasn't Wisconsin taught us the necessity for true negotiation and compromise? Disallowing amendments will transform the tranquility of the Tallahassee Capitol into the tumultuous Madison Capitol in a matter of days.
The Senate re-opens session under your unprecedented, enormous $3.3 Billion cut to education. At the very least, our legislature should take ample time to consider whether or not the bill they are proposing and budget cuts recommending,violate Florida's Constitution. And, they should take ample time to consider the fiscal irresponsibility of passing this overhaul.
Here is why.
Article 9, Section 1 of the FL Constitution states that..."providing and funding a high quality system of education is the legislature's paramount duty." Paramount, meaning foremost, first. These legislators are clearly dismissing Florida Constitution by consistently reducing the education budget and continuing to improperly fund Florida's education.
A budget really is nothing more than a priority list with two crucial elements: income and outflow (expense).
This legislature has allowed exemptions to income which now total over $5 Billion. Some of these examples were drawn from this document produced by Fund Education Now: http://tinyurl.com/4nfobqd
1) If affluent individuals or corporations purchase yachts in Florida, they are
exempt from paying FL taxes. This totals $78 million lost in income. Yet
parents must provide toilet paper, tissues, hand sanitizers, copier toner,
paper towels, and reams of paper for our schools.
2) Florida allows hugely profitable sports teams tax exemptions worth $21 Million
while middle schools across the state are cutting their sports programs.
3) Florida exempts bottled water industry from paying $42 Million in taxes while
our elementary schools must cut art and music from their curriculum.
4) Why is it that companies headquartered in other states, such as Home Depot,
Toys R Us, Kohl's Dept Stores pay no taxes in Florida? Shouldn't we be looking
at collecting that before we saddle Florida's citizens with billions for writing
new tests for every course?
5) Why are Florida legislators signing legislation to launch wholesale education reform
initiatives which have repeatedly proven to fail elsewhere. At the very least,
shouldn't Florida be monitoring pilot programs before irresponsibly casting
hundreds of millions of dollars into merit pay, value added assessment, and
expansion of charter schools? I'd like my checkbook back.
Some Florida legislators are using the country's recession to attempt to convince us that Education must experience preposterous cuts when they ignore $5 billion in exemptions for items above. Why aren't they revisiting those budgetary concerns vs. violating the constitution? This has to stop.
Some legislators do not view public education as a worthwhile investment. They are not treating it, per the FL constitution, as "paramount." http://tinyurl.com/4zs9d93
I'm a non partisan taxpayer, a business woman, and a concerned parent. I've never belonged to a union. I can no longer look at a 6 year old child and not be dismayed as to what his or her future holds. That child's education is not an expense, it is an investment and it should be paramount to every legislator.
Governor Scott, these are our public schools. These are our children. These are our voices being silenced. Please insist that amendments be heard..
Note: The basis of this letter and its research was excerpted with permission from documents received by the dedicated non partisan parent advocates at Fund Education Now:. http://www.fundeducationnow.org