Gov. Rick Scott has done an abrupt turnaround on education spending, proposing a $100 increase per student despite dealing with a $2 billion budget shortfall.
That is great news for the Manatee County School District, which was gearing up to feel the fiscal vise again. But the budget needs to get through the Legislature, where education spending may not increase.
The district is projecting a 1,000-student increase in enrollment. Money from the state follows students, so theoretically, that increased cost is covered in operating expenses. That will depend on the spring legislative session outcome.
If more cuts are needed, which seems likely, much of the budget debate for the next school year will come down to salaries and focus on teacher salaries. This has to be the case, because personnel is where most of the district’s money is spent.
But, although the financial picture is foggy, and it will be another slog for School Board members, the administration and the teachers union, that does not mean it needs to be bleak for students.
Even if some cuts happen — which seems likely — students still have an array of classes, teachers, extracurricular activities, food and so on. In fact, the typical Manatee student has far more resources available than any previous generation. Education should still happen unabated.
Unfortunately, the district recently got the typical us-versus-them, good-guy-bad-guy report from Jim Hamilton, of Mixon and Associates. (This is the same group currently analyzing the Sarasota County School District’s finances and one of the education establishment’s ultimate insiders.)
Hamilton told the School Board that in Tallahassee, “There’s not a lot of concern about whether teachers get paid.”
Whether he was pandering to his audience or just revealing his pro-establishment bias, the statement was flat wrong — seriously, politicians don’t care if teachers get paid? — and harmful to what Manatee schools need to do for students next year.
Because all of the finger-pointing and blame done between Tallahassee, individual districts and teachers unions does not educate one child. And that should be the focus of the School Board.
+ East County comeback
We thought it would be the case, and it appears to be: The Lakewood Ranch area is leading the two-county economic comeback with new houses, new stores and new offices.
As the East County Observer reported last week, out of 41 construction permits for more than $1 million pulled last year in Sarasota and Manatee counties, a full one-quarter of them are in the Ranch area.
Several new subdivisions are now under way along with a revival of retail and office construction in the University Parkway corridor.
This is good news for the region and great news for the Ranch area.