Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Senate's $4.5 Billion Education Plan Unveiled

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Senate's $4.5 Billion Education Plan Unveiled

Article excerpt

ORANGE PARK -- The Legislature is ready to respond to cries for

help from school districts that have aging or overcrowded

schools but cannot raise enough money for new facilities, said

state Sen. Jim Horne.

The Orange Park Republican was one of a group of Senate leaders

who on Wednesday unveiled a five-point plan that would double

the state contribution to education.

The plan would pump at least $4.5 billion statewide into school

building programs over the next 20 years.

The Senate plan, dubbed Classrooms First, is a sign the

Legislature is ready to help address the school construction

needs that are overwhelming growing counties such as Clay and

Duval, Horne said.

"By any stretch of the imagination, that is significant," he

said. "We believe the Legislature is going to step forward in a

very big way."

Gov. Lawton Chiles has called the Legislature into special

session Nov. 3 to find a way to build more schools and relieve

overcrowding.

Horne unveiled the Senate plan at Orange Park Elementary

School, the aging Clay County school that three of his children

attend. He chairs the education subcommittee of the Senate Ways

and Means Committee and is also a member of the Senate Education

Committee.

Other Senate leaders made similar announcements across the

state, he said.

The Classrooms First plan is designed to increase the amount of

school construction funds available from the state "while

preserving local responsibility and control," Horne said. It

will increase the state's investment in education by $300

million, roughly doubling what the state now spends on school

construction, he said.

"Everybody didn't think we would be willing to commit," Horne

said. "But this is a good plan. And I think we will get

consensus on it. …

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