Budget Cuts School Funding
In their final week of work, Florida lawmakers passed a budget that cuts school funding. With less money and new graduation requirements, electives may be the first classes to go.
"In a couple years if I retire, there's a good chance I won't be replaced," said Mary Helen Wheeler, an art teacher at Westwood Middle School. Wheeler has been teaching at Westwood for 17 years.
The state's new budget cuts school funding by almost eight percent, that's potentially an $8 million blow to Alachua county's $180 million budget.
"Our elective programs have already taken a hammering over the last few years, but we're doing our best to hang on to those as much as possible," said Jackie Johnson, school district spokesperson.
Spending would drop from $6,800 to $6,200 per student.
A special "one mill" tax approved by county voters expires in 2012. Currently it maintains elementary art and music programs, but budgeting for Mrs. Wheelers middle school art class, comes out of the district's general fund.
"If it's not chemistry or physics or the algebra two that they're adding into the mix for our kid's graduation, if it's not part of that plan, then it's going to be one of the first things to go," said Wheeler.
With the recent class size, tenure, and merit pay legislation, something else that may go, are teachers.
"Now teachers are facing all these new requirements, and new laws that quite frankly make a lot of teachers feel, unappreciated in this state," said Johnson.
Wheeler says state politicians are hurting the bigger picture of public education in Florida.
"You've got children who are functioning at a lower level with higher behavior issues, being taught by teachers who are scared to death for their jobs so it's really not a good formula," she said.
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