Today's biggest news in education policy and program development, of course, is the opening of the special session of the Florida Legislature, which was called to make a number of budget cuts for the current fiscal year to help offset the state's continued revenue shortfalls. This session will be swift and somber: The full Appropriations Council on Education and Economic Development and the Full Appropriations Council on General Government and Health Care will meet all day on Wednesday, and then the House and Senate will hold the all-important budget conferences Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Next week will be spent in the required readings, final conferences, then the final votes, and that will be that.
The Governor's budget proposals called for around $100 million in cuts to PK-20 education, with about half related to elementary and secondary schools. However, the general consensus is that the Legislature will make much steeper cuts in spending and make fewer reserve transfers than the Governor proposed. Neither chamber is expected to address the Governor's now-invalidated gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe, leaving that revenue issue for regular session.
This session is highlighted in the "Quick Study" section below, along with a few other items of note.
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QUICK STUDY: FOR WHOM THE BELL CURVES (Sources provided below)
1. Number of Florida Legislators called to special session today: 40 senators and 120 representatives
2. Number of days the special session will last: 12
3. Amount of budget shortfall to be accounted for in the special session beginning today: $2.3 billion
4. Amount of additional budget shortfall to be accounted for in the regular session beginning in March: $4 billion
5. Decrease in Florida FY09 budget from FY09 budget: $6 billion
6. Number of previous years in which Florida's revenues have dropped this far in one year: 0
7. Number of Floridians who are jobless: 680,000
8. Rate per $1,000 of personal income of combined federal, state, and local taxes allocated to PK-12 education in Florida: $33.51
9. Number of states in which this combined tax rate is higher: 49
1. Constitution of the State of Florida, Article III, Section 16 http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?Mode=Constitution&Submenu=3&Tab=statutes#A03S16
2. Florida Legislature Joint Proclamation http://www.flsenate.gov/data/welcome/senate/2009A_proclamation.pdf
3, 4, 5, 6. Miami Herald http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics/florida/story/836787.html
8, 9. U.S. Census Bureau http://ftp2.census.gov/govs/school/06f33pub.pdf