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Teacher union: Crist and legis gave "empty political promises"

The Florida Education Association's Andy Ford took a swipe at Gov. Charlie Crist and state legislators who said schools would be "held harmless" under property-tax cut plans. But their tough-on-schools state budget suggests otherwise.

Likely counter: The economy is bad and everyone (except prison builders) took a hit.

Ford's statement:

To say that we are disappointed in the massive cuts to public education in the proposed budget is beyond an understatement. After listening to the governor and legislative leaders unceasingly promise to hold education harmless so that Floridians would approve Amendment 1 in January, we now see that those were nothing but empty political promises.

So now school districts throughout Florida are faced with ugly choices. In a state that underfinances schools in the best of times, we’re looking at teachers and education staff professionals losing their jobs, schools being closed, arts and music programs curtailed or eliminated, after-school programs and summer classes cancelled or scaled way back, and fewer school resource officers and crossing guards. What we’re not looking at is political leaders facing up to their responsibilities to invest in Florida’s future: our children and all those who work to educate them and prepare them for the future.

The choices were there: Political leaders could have dipped into rainy day funds. They could have decided to begin to enforce the state’s sales tax on Internet businesses. They could have decided to collect sales taxes on sports stadium skyboxes, charter fishing boats, ostrich and livestock feed, yachts docked in the state, athletic and theatrical agents, health clubs and golf courses, and dozens of other items exempt from sales taxes. They could have chosen to increases taxes  on cigarette and alcohol sales. They might have even decided not to increase funding for corporate tax breaks to unproven voucher schools.

But instead, they chose to balance the budget on the backs of children in our public schools. That’s more than disappointing, it’s irresponsible.