Legislature Continues Record of Disinvesting in Higher Education
The Florida Legislature’s years-long policy of cutting state funding for higher education while shifting more of the cost of a college education to students and parents continues.
Budgets passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives again reduce state funding for universities and colleges by hundreds of millions of dollars after four years of deep cuts and despite rapidly increasing enrollment.
Legislature Expands Risky Experiment of Education Privatization As Traditional Public Schools Suffer
Florida is pursuing education privatization further and faster than any other state. New laws in effect for the 2011-12 school year expand eligibility and funding for school choice programs. Florida already is the leader nationally in the number of students and tax dollars appropriated in voucher programs.
While they cut funding for public schools, legislators expanded every alternative to traditional public schools. They directed tens of millions of dollars into programs that serve students in private schools and those operated by for-profit educational management companies. Some Florida policymakers want to go even further: establishing a voucher program that would give public money to parents to pay their child’s tuition in private schools.
Florida’s Latest Strategy for Improving Schools Promises More of the Same – and Uncertain Results
Florida is embarking on a new phase in a long series of education changes designed to improve student achievement and ultimately to enhance economic growth in the state. After years of previous “reforms” of the K-12 system, many of uncertain benefit, the state is committing itself to another ambitious set of goals and actions it hopes will improve public schools.
New initiatives to improve public schools occur frequently throughout the nation and in Florida. Policymakers understand the well-established benefits of increased educational attainment both for individuals, who can expect to earn higher salaries with higher levels of education, and for states, whose economic activity increases with a more highly trained and educated workforce. (See the FCFEP Issue Brief, Florida’s State University System: An Investment that Creates Jobs. )
The recent high ranking that Florida received from a national education publication isn’t quite the cause for celebration that it might seem at first. In fact, at the same time Education Week gave Florida high grades in some areas, it also pointed out glaring shortcomings which, if not addressed, threaten the state’s economic wellbeing.
Education Week’s latest annual Quality Counts assessment of American education awarded Florida an 80.3 percent grade overall, or a B-minus. The score ranked Florida eighth among the states. The announcement of the Florida grade led to celebratory statements by some public officials and assertions that it demonstrates that the state provides high-quality public education.