It was a tough day for public education in Florida yesterday. Indeed, I don’t know that we are going to survive it. It wasn’t only the continued grip of the Republican party on the executive and legislative branches in Florida. There is much more involved.
But first, the song. I know you want it:
But I don’t feel fine. If you want public education to continue in Florida, you don’t feel fine.
Ron DeSantis will be the next governor with the Republican majorities in the legislature to pass the legislation they all want. Expect to see an expansion of voucher opportunities. Expect to see an Arizona law moving through the chambers to give every parent a voucher. No more qualifications needed, every parent gets a voucher to use at whatever school they choose.
The incoming House Speaker, Jose Oliva, already warned us that if we didn’t like the legislation the outgoing Speaker rammed through (Richard Corcoran), we would really hate what he has in mind. I wish I could locate a citation for that, but I can’t. But if you are passionate about public education as I am, that kind of quote sticks in your mind.
But it’s worse, much worse. Despite all the talk about raising teacher salaries to a minimum of $50,000 a year, despite all the talk about providing public education the resources it needs, despite all the palaver about who loves education more and the role of school competition for students and dollars (oops, excuse me, that should read school choice), the reality is that Amendment 5 passed. It will now take a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature to raise taxes, which means like South Dakota, Arizona, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada and Washington, a tax increase no matter what the need and how important it is, and how much the public may support it, is impossible.
Throw in the current legislative interpretation that a rise in tax revenue due solely to property assessment increases in valuation as markets rise is really a tax increase and that millage rates must be cut so that the state cannot take in more revenue, and we have a mess that will have to be sorted out by the courts.
Courts, by the way, who will be dominated by judges appointed by the Republicans, including the Florida Supreme Court, which has three justices forced out by the mandatory retirement age.
(But Amendment 6 raised the minimum age to 75. Can the three judges now not retire? The courts will have to sort it out. Somebody challenge it quick before January. In the greatest of conflicts of interest ever, maybe these judges can rule on their mandatory retirement. Brian Kemp (Georgia Secretary of State overseeing his own election as governor,) let Florida show you how it’s done!)
It is possible that Florida courts will interpret Amendment 5 as prohibiting any increase in school funding via taxes, even by local initiatives like those passed by Palm Beach and Dade Counties.
Revenues cannot increase even as the years take their toll through slow inflation of prices and wages. There will be no money for increased teacher salaries. Eventually, no one will be able to afford being a professional, certified teacher as salaries remain fixed at current levels while the CPI doubles and triples.
Without teachers, there will be no schools.
Death by the cuts already made. Death by the choices of voters now cemented into the state constitution.
Florida, in the next five to ten years, you won’t recognize your school system.