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FEA: Pounds of Pennies in Support of Sales Tax Increase for Schools

March 18, 2009

A penny will mean more today than usual in Tallahassee, as the Florida Education Association (FEA) uses a novel idea to make its case for the one-cent sales tax it is proposing to shore up ailing school budgets.

One penny for each public school student in Florida - that's 2.6 million pennies, in all - will be on display in Tallahassee today. FEA spokesperson Mark Pudlow says it's a way of showing support for a temporary sales tax increase, to expire at the end of three years, that would help offset additional school budget cuts.

"Thousands of teachers and school employees are going to lose their jobs, and classroom size will balloon if we don't come up with a solution to this. This will give the legislators time to come up with a fair tax solution, so everybody pays their fair share and, when the economy goes a little bit south, our children don't pay the price."

Florida voters agreed in 2002 to limit class sizes, a goal Pudlow says will be almost impossible to reach with continued budget cuts. He hopes now, they'll see the temporary tax hike as a necessary investment.

"It's just such an important investment in our children. It's an investment in our state and in our future, and it's going to pay off for years to come."

Critics say in this budget crunch, the state cannot afford to raise taxes. Pudlow says, compared to other states, Floridians pay less total tax than people in 46 other states, and our per pupil spending is nearly dead last.

At first, the 15,000 pounds of pennies were going to be piled on the steps of the capitol, but they weigh too much. FEA members collected the pennies, worth $26,000, and will donate them to the Children's Home Society after the rally and display.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL