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Sen. Soto pitches his own plan for teacher debit cards

Calling Gov. Rick Scott's teacher debit card program "broken," Sen. Darren Soto on Wednesday unveiled his own plan for helping educators purchase classroom supplies.

Under Soto's proposal, teachers statewide would receive school supply debit cards two weeks before the start of the school year. Elementary school teachers would receive $250. Middle and high school teachers would receive $500 and $750, respectively.

“With revenues up, it is critical that we use this opportunity to strengthen our education system, without bankrupting our teachers,” Soto wrote in a statement.

Soto's news release came after a Herald/Times report that only seven of the state's 67 school districts had signed up for Scott's new teacher debit card program. Many districts declined because the $250 cards won't be available until September, well after kids have returned to the classroom.

The participating districts: Hamilton, Hendry, Jefferson, Layfayette, Levy, Miami-Dade and Orange.

Broward has agreed to participate next year, according to the governor's office.

Scott's debit card proposal, which was included SB 1664, won widespread support in the House and Senate earlier this year. Soto was among the seven Democrats who approved the bill when it reached the Senate floor.


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Ricky Smiley Toxic

"4. Who Needs Public Schools?

The Republican establishment in Tallahassee continues to cut the state’s commitment to education. “Rick Scott and the legislature don’t care about education,” says Susan Smith, president of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida. In 2011, Scott and his cronies removed $1.3 billion in funding for kindergarten through grade 12, resulting in hundreds of teacher layoffs.

“Just horrific,” is how Mario Piscatella of the group MPA Political describes the cuts. “They’re undermining our education system.” And Piscatella criticizes another Republican initiative. Rather than funding colleges adequately, he says the state voted to build a 14th state university, which seems to him an utter waste of tax dollars. “Scott talks about bringing in new jobs and companies to Florida, but that won’t happen with poorly educated kids,” Piscatella adds.

Others note the budget cut for education was so steep that the governor’s popularity plummeted. So in the 2012 state budget, Scott added $1 billion for schools. He’s been touring the Sunshine State, telling students how the new money will help them learn and find good jobs. Many call it sheer hypocrisy intended to get voters to support Republicans running for reelection to the legislature this fall. Scott does not run again until 2014."


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