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Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

Being cheap on education can cost so much

Special to Hernando Today


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According to the most recent Unites States Census Bureau data available, Florida ranks 42nd in the United States in per capita public school spending. We spend $8,887 per student, well below the national average of $10,559. The idea that our students are receiving less money in the classroom than virtually every other student in the entire country should provoke anger and outrage.

Sadly, some parents are more outraged by what Miley Cyrus wears at an awards show than the fact that their children are being robbed in the classroom on a daily basis.

This is not a case of fiscal mismanagement or impropriety. Florida just doesn't bring in enough revenue to keep up with the rest of America's schools. The national per student revenue average is $12,410, compared to $10,031 for each student in Florida. Florida spends about $2,000 less each year on each student because we receive about $2,000 less per student each year from the state and federal governments than other states do.

Since we know that Florida is near the bottom of the national list in student spending, we can't be surprised that we are also in the basement in all major categories of student achievement.

A 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Education indicates that only five states in America have worse overall graduation rates than we do in Florida.

More specifically, Florida does an atrocious job of educating those students that need it the most. We only graduate 60 percent of low-income students; this rate is one of the lowest in the United States. South Dakota is at the top of this list, and they graduate 86 percent of their poor students.

Without a decent education, it is almost impossible for these students to rise out of poverty.

Grievously, most of those poor students turn into poor adults. Florida's poverty rate, 15.6 percent, is well above the U.S. average. People living in poverty are likely to need government assistance, these programs cost the taxpayers billions every year.

Wouldn't it be smarter to spend a little more money up front educating our students than to cheat them now and wind up supporting them when they are adults and can't afford to support themselves?

Disabled students that go through Florida's public school system also suffer from the lack of funding. Only 42 percent of students with disabilities graduate; this rate is also one of the worst in America.

Florida is spending money, just not on our students.

According to the Department of Corrections, Florida spends $17,973 per year on each state prison inmate that we house. We spend over twice as much per year on our inmates as we do our students.

We certainly do not mind spending money on football. Florida State University's football coach Jimbo Fisher was paid $2.75 million last year. The head coach of the Florida Gators, Will Muschamp, hauled in $2,734,500, and Miami's Al Golden was paid $2,148,107 in 2013.

It seems peculiar that Duval County can afford to spend $275,000 per year to pay the superintendent, but less than $9,000 per year on each student.

Floridians have to start making better decisions to ensure that our children are educated properly. This means only electing candidates that have a proven record of bringing in money for schools, along with a specific and realistic plan to increase Florida's school spending. This also means putting intense pressure on those we have already elected.

Our leaders must also reach out to owners in the business community. If private businesses aren't willing to support local schools, we shouldn't support them. They prosper off of our communities, and we have the right to hold them accountable.

Florida has an obligation to invest more money into education; we can't afford what will happen if we don't.

Andrew Carswell is a composition professor who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach. You can contact him at

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