Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Statewide Drive Aims at 40% Funding Level for Education

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Statewide Drive Aims at 40% Funding Level for Education

Article excerpt

If a statewide coalition of educators, parents and business

people are successful getting a budget amendment passed in 1998,

Clay County Schools may reap an annual $12 million windfall,

said supporters of a drive called Reclaim Education's Share.

"Different groups are sort of taking it through their

endorsement process," said Cathy Kelly, executive director of

the Florida Teaching Profession-National Education Association.

FTP-NEA, which has 60,000 members, is spearheading the amendment

drive.

The aim of the amendment is to mandate that legislators

allocate 40 percent of the state's general revenues for

education, supporters said.

As described, the process requires two major steps: the

amendment must first be approved by the Florida Supreme Court,

then it takes 700,000 signatures to put the issue on the 1998

ballot, Kelly said.

To get the Supreme Court to decide whether the issue meets the

constitutional test requires at least 55,000 signatures, she

said.

Since the Florida State Lottery started in 1986, education's

share of the state's general revenue has slipped to 35 percent,

down from 40 percent, Kelly said.

If the state's 2.7 million school children -- a group that

grows by 65,000 annually -- received 40 percent of state revenue

in 1996 it would mean an estimated $1.5 billion more for the

state's 67 counties, she said.

"Actually, it's more than a wash," she said about the budget

reductions after the lottery came into being a decade ago. Many

educators have complained that legislators keep reducing

education's share of the $840 million the state nets from the

lottery.

Kelly said funding is dropping, but educators are being asked

to do more while school systems expand and student needs grow.

Ray Fisher, president of the Clay County Educators Association,

which helped collect signatures on Nov. …

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