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Florida Times-Union: Penny wise, future foolish on education

Thursday, April 17, 2014

If Florida wants to prosper in this century, we cannot skimp on education funding.

Yet Florida ranks dead last on effective funding for higher education as well as ranking behind most of the nation on K-12 per-pupil funding and teacher salaries.

That is one of the key lessons pulled from a new report from the LeRoy Collins Institute, “Tougher Choices: Shaping Florida’s Future.”

This was an update of the institute’s report in 2005, “Tough Choices,” which predicted many current issues.

According to the report, Florida still relies too much on tourists and retirees and the low-skilled, low-wage jobs that support them.

Meanwhile, we are also underfunding education and infrastructure — two keys to higher wage jobs.

Being cheap will only lead to a predictable result: A declining economy that trails other states that properly invest.


One way to fund education is to give school districts the option to raise taxes.

This would produce inequities, but it at least would allow some districts to invest.

As for college, Florida squeezes quality out of low funding, but it is unreasonable to rank last in the sum of state funding and net tuition (2012).

It’s no wonder that the Collins report concludes that Florida has an “unfriendly environment for funding higher education.”


The report presents some chilling scenarios:

■ Do we want to become even more stringent in providing medical care to the poor?

■ Do we want K-12 schools that languish without resources?

■ Do we want state universities hampered by exploding class sizes and non-competitive faculty salaries?

“Floridians need to work hard and have open minds to guide some tough choices,” the report states.


Florida has a significant education gap.

Fewer Floridians have college degrees than the national average.

As the Collins report points out, that has real repercussions for our state,

“College-educated workers not only earn more but also increase the earnings of other workers in the city,” the report states.

So how much evidence do we need before we change our stingy approach to funding education in Florida?

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