The following is from Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, Chair of the House Progressive Caucus. Robin also responded to Scott’s budget via Facebook Live immediately following the budget address. You can find his video response at the bottom of this post.
Governor Scott’s budget address last week was uncharacteristically bold. It contained some worthy proposals: an increase in state college funding, a commitment to pre-K, and a $35 million housing bond.
But unfortunately those were overshadowed by his core proposal, which is to shift higher ed, pre-K, and teacher retirement commitments (pension funding) into the Education Fund, which is financed by property taxes. Schools would be required or asked (it is unclear which) to level fund budgets based on last year with budget votes delayed to May 23 to enable this. Finally, teachers would be required to pay more for their health insurance.
True, the governor would transfer $86 million dollars from the General Fund to the Education Fund, but that falls about $50 million short of the actual cost of these new obligations. The $50 million difference would be made up by level funding (actually a cut considering inflation) and finding undefined “efficiencies”.
Level funding is a bad idea in so many ways; numbers of students, staffing, special education needs, maintenance expenses, and technology needs all vary widely from year to year. Last year’s needs are not always an accurate reflection of next years needs, especially considering that many schools pared their budgets to the bone last year, potentially at the cost of educational quality. Instead of asking the wealthy to pay their fair share, this proposal asks K-12 students
and their teachers to fund both early childhood education and higher education.
Beyond the practical concerns there are real questions about whether requiring schools to level fund violates the Brigham decision. But what the governor’s proposals really do is highlight the need for real Progressive reform. We need to shift education funding away from property tax to a system more calibrated to income – all the way across the income spectrum.
We also need to take health insurance off the bargaining table for good and uncouple health insurance from place of employment. Progressives will be introducing a single payer primary care bill and an income based education funding bill. Again. And for as long as we need to.