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Education Week report: Florida Schools Top Ten, But Can It Last?

January 9, 2009

The publication Education Week has ranked Florida schools tenth in the nation on its annual report card, up from 31st just three years ago. The newspaper gives the state a "B-minus" overall, with high marks for setting standards, testing, and teacher qualifications.

Mark Pudlow, spokesperson for the Florida Education Association, is surprised that the ranking improved, despite the state having nearly the lowest per-student funding in the nation, and one of the worst high school graduation rates as well. He is concerned that continued budget cuts are already taking their toll.

"We're increasing our standing, but the ability of the state to continue to offer a high-quality education becomes more and more difficult, as we continue to cut funding."

According to Pudlow, the ranking is based on two-year-old information; it takes that long to gather and analyze the data. Since then, he adds, education has suffered three budget cuts, and another half-billion dollar hit is expected from the special legislative session now in progress. He hopes the cuts won't be as deep as anticipated, but says budgets are now so lean that there's simply not much more to trim.

"We may be able to squeeze through this year. Right now, we're very fearful about next year, and we'll have to find some more revenue somewhere along the way, or else schools will really start suffering next year. We will see layoffs across the board if nothing changes."

The Florida Education Association is working to change this trend with a new public awareness campaign on television and the Internet. Called "Make Our Schools A Priority," Pudlow says it's aimed at educating people about the dangers of reducing education funding, and urging lawmakers to invest in kids.

"We're talking about our future. It's our responsibility as adults here in Florida, to make sure that we raise the next generation to take over for us."

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL