Florida to Receive $553 Million From Federal Stimulus Bill; Governor Crist Makes Washington, D.C. Race to the Top Pitch

Aug 11, 2010


Florida Governor Charlie Crist and a delegation of Florida educators made a presentation to U.S. Department of Education officials today, August 11, 2010, as part of Florida’s continued effort to win federal Race to the Top education funds.  Meanwhile, the U.S. House passed a $1.3 billion stimulus bill on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 that will afford $553 million toward saving an estimated 9,000 Florida education-related jobs.

Because of this funding, Broward County will be able to save an estimated 700 jobs, rehiring teachers and non-instructional who were laid off on July 1, 2010.  An estimated 9,000 school jobs will be saved statewide.

News articles on these topics can be accessed by clicking on the following hyperlinks and are also reprinted below.


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THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA:  Crist Stumping for Schools Money in D.C.


WASHINGTON, D.C, Aug. 11, 2010……Gov. Charlie Crist’s pitch was simple: Florida is united this time, from school boards to unions, in its bid for up to $700 million in federal education stimulus funds.
The governor and a delegation of Florida educators hope that the everyone-on-board message puts them over the top in a stiff, 19-state competition for the windfall – part of the federal Race to the Top grant program. The Florida group made its pitch in a 90-minute meeting Wednesday with U.S. Department of Education officials in Washington.
Florida is vying for a share of $3.4 billion in remaining education-reform money, which would be used to improve the state’s chronically poor graduation rates, lift low-performing schools and develop performance-pay plans for teachers.
“I think the big difference is the level of support, and frankly that’s one of the first topics that we addressed,” the governor said. “Broad support by the Florida Education Association and the unions around the state is significantly higher than the first time around. That cooperation, that collaboration, bodes well.”
If Florida wins the grant, half will go to county school districts and half will stay in Tallahassee, at the Department of Education, to develop statewide initiatives.
Winners will be announced later this month or in early September.
The Race to the Top program is part of President Obama’s $800-billion-plus stimulus plan passed in 2009. The money is doled out to states that show plans to use data-driven approaches to improve teacher quality and turn around failing schools.
In the first round of federal awards, announced in March, only Delaware and Tennessee won grants. Florida was a finalist – and widely considered a frontrunner – but finished fourth, out of the money.
Only five of Florida’s 67 local teacher unions supported that first bid. Fifty-eight of those locals now back the second, said Florida Education Association President Andy Ford, who was on hand at Wednesday’s meeting to support Florida’s application.
Florida’s Race to the Top application includes a merit pay plan for teachers – a lightning rod in state politics. But the proposal wouldn’t judge teachers solely on student test scores. It allows districts to weigh other factors such as socioeconomic conditions and family problems that can hinder learning gains.
The Republican-run state Legislature caused a stir in the spring legislative session by passing SB6, a bill to base teacher pay and job security mostly on student test scores, but Crist vetoed it.
“Every time (merit pay) comes up it’s controversial, but we’re getting closer,” said Ford. “If we can come up with a system that people believe in, the fear goes away.”

Crist said the lack of union support was the main factor in torpedoing Florida’s first bid for funds. “When you come in fourth out of 50, that’s pretty darn close. Just a little bit more effort should be enough to let Florida prevail.”
The delegation presenting Florida’s case included Crist, Ford, Miami-Dade schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho and Education Commissioner Eric Smith. The president of the Miami Dade teachers union, Karen Aronowitz, also traveled to Washington for the meeting.

The presence of Ford and other union leaders at Wednesday’s meeting, the governor said, “makes a real statement.”
Florida was one of six states to go before U.S. Department of Education officials Wednesday, along with Arizona, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Illinois. Each state made their presentations in private, closed-to-the-press meetings in hotel conference rooms. Only two governors made personal appeals, Crist and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
The other 13 finalists made their pitches Tuesday.
Crist, a former Republican now running as a no-party candidate for U.S. Senate, wasn’t in the nation’s capital just for official business. He has a meeting this afternoon with the Teamsters union and a fundraiser, thrown by Democrats, Wednesday night. The governor did not take the state jet on the trip because of the campaign events; he flew commercial. 



$1.3B from federal stimulus will give Florida a boost

Obama signs law to save school jobs, bolster recovery

By William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau


WASHINGTON — Florida’s fragile economic recovery will get a $1.3 billion boost from a state aid bill that cleared Congress on Tuesday.

This second — and probably last — round of federal economic-stimulus spending will deliver an estimated $553 million of education money to Florida to save nearly 9,000 school jobs.

And it will plug estimated $794 million into state coffers, mostly to cover health care for the poor. The federal infusion will help the Florida Legislature balance its budget and reduce pressure to cut state services, lay off government workers, curb contracts with private companies or raise fees.

The bill, passed by the House on Tuesday and already approved by the Senate, drew praise from Gov. Charlie Crist and local school officials in South and Central Florida.

“We need all the help we can get, especially in this economy,” Crist told reporters in Tallahassee. “It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Broward County School Superintendent James Notter said he’s “absolutely ecstatic” that the federal government is “doing the right thing. It’s sorely needed for education across this nation.”

Broward schools expect to get about $54 million, which Notter said will allow him to rehire all of the 555 teachers laid off on July 1. He also expects to rehire more than 500 of the 737 non-instructional employees — secretaries, bus drivers, custodians and maintenance workers — who received pink slips.

Palm Beach County school officials expect to get $38 million, and they plan to use it to prevent layoffs during the 2011-2012 school year.

“I can’t rule out layoffs for 2012, but $38 million would go a long way to help,” said Mike Burke, chief financial officer for Palm Beach County schools.

Central Florida school districts welcomed the federal aid to help plug gaps in their 2011-2012 school year budgets. The districts have 27 months to use the money.

“It still is not going to take care of our needs, but it is helpful,” said Margaret Smith, superintendent of Volusia County schools.

According to federal and state figures, the first stimulus bill in 2009 saved 18,042 education jobs in Florida and created 2,934 jobs.

It saved the jobs of 400 teachers in Seminole County and 401 in Orange County. Because of the stimulus, Orange also was able to save 275 guidance counselors, 143 media specialists and 26 social workers.

The House interrupted its August break to come into “emergency session” to pass the bill by 247 to 161, mostly along party lines.

South Florida Democrats Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Ron Klein of Boca Raton voted “yes.”

Central Florida Democrats Suzanne Kosmas of New Smyrna Beach, Alan Grayson of Orlando and Corrine Brown of Jacksonville voted “yes.” Republicans John Mica of Orlando, Cliff Stearns of Ocala, Adam Putnam of Bartow and Bill Posey of Rockledge voted “no.”

President Barack Obama immediately signed the bill into law.

“We can’t stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe,” Obama said at the White House.

Republican opponents accused Democrats of pushing through needless spending to reward teachers’ unions and other special interests while keeping states dependent on federal aid without expanding the job market. Many called it a bailout bill.

“Apparently there is an emergency because Congress has not spent enough money,” Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas said sarcastically. “The American people are wondering what part of broke does Congress not understand.”

Democratic supporters said the $26 billion bill will save the government more than $1 billion over 10 years because it trims Food Stamp spending and eliminates a tax break for multi-national corporations.

Economists said the aid will help sustain Florida’s fledgling recovery but probably will not be enough to prompt widespread hiring.

“The best stimulus they can provide is to extend unemployment compensation and give money directly to the states to keep teachers, firefighters and others employed,” said Bruce Nissen, director of research at the Center for Labor Research and Studies at Florida International University. “Those people will plug the money right back into the economy.”

But some Florida employers said this type of stimulus provides little incentive for private companies to resume hiring.

“I don’t think anybody has confidence yet to say there’s going to be substantial growth in the near future,” said Tom Kennedy, executive director of the South Florida Manufactures Association, based in Pompano Beach. “What you’ll see is employers testing the waters via temporary help. If we have a sustained recovery, they will transition to permanent hires.”

Some in Congress fear the recovery will sputter once federal aid runs out, leaving a big government debt. The state-aid bill is an attempt to add a second stimulus to save jobs and stoke the recovery.

“We’ve seen positive signs, like three successive months of reductions in Florida’s unemployment rate,” said Don Winstead, Crist’s economic recovery adviser. He said only 40 percent of the $6.4 billion from the first stimulus bill to be funneled through Florida agencies has been spent.

“There’s still a lot of spending going on,” Winstead said, “and that will continue through this year and well into next year.”

Education writers Dave Weber in Orlando and Akilah Johnson in Fort Lauderdale contributed to this report. William E. Gibson can be reached at Wgibson@tribune.com or 202-824-8256.



Blog:  Broward plans to bring back more than just teachers with stimulus money

By Akilah Johnson


The feds just injected $553 million of education into Florida to save almost 9,000 jobs-more than 700 in Broward County.

Superintendent James Notter said he will be able to rehire all of the teachers who were laid off on July 1, meaning the remaining 211 educators still unemployed will have a job. He also plans to bring back more than 500 non-instructional employees- maintenance workers, secretaries, cafeteria workers, etc.- who lost jobs.

Besides rehiring staff, Notter said he hopes to help those district employees who agreed to furlough days or who accepted a 47 percent pay cut to regain their hours. He said he’s got to make sure the stimulus money doesn’t come with stipulations that limit the spending to rehiring.

So, that’s what Notter plans to do with the $54 million Broward expects to receive.

Here are President Obama’s remarks on the funding measure, given yesterday morning in the White House rose garden before Congress passed the bill:

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. One of the biggest challenges of this recession has been its impact on state and local communities. With so many Americans unemployed or struggling to get by, states have been forced to balance their budgets with fewer tax dollars, which means that they’ve got to cut critical services and lay off teachers and police officers and firefighters.

It’s one thing for states to get their fiscal houses in order and tighten their belts like families across America — because families have been doing it, there’s no reason that states can’t do it, too. That’s a welcome thing. But we can’t stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe. That doesn’t make sense. And that’s why a significant part of the economic plan that we passed last year provided relief for struggling states — relief that has already prevented hundreds of thousands of layoffs.

And that’s why today we’re trying to pass a law that will save hundreds of thousands of additional jobs in the coming year. It will help states avoid laying off police officers, firefighters, nurses and first responders. And it will save the jobs of teachers like the ones who are standing with me today. If we do nothing, these educators won’t be returning to the classroom this fall. And that won’t just deprive them of a paycheck, it will deprive the children and parents who are counting on them to provide a decent education. It means that students in Illinois and West Virginia who count on Rachel and Shannon are going to be not getting the education that they deserve. It will deprive countless cities and towns of the law enforcement officials and first responders who risk their lives to keep us out of harm’s way. It will cost us jobs at a time when we need to be creating jobs. In other words, it will take us backwards at a time when we need to keep this country moving forward.

Now, this proposal is fully paid for, in part by closing tax loopholes that encourage corporations to ship American jobs overseas. So it will not add to our deficit. And the money will only go toward saving the jobs of teachers and other essential professionals.
It should not be a partisan issue. I heard the Republican Leader in the House say the other day that this is a special interest bill. And I suppose if America’s children and the safety of our communities are your special interests, then it is a special interest bill. But I think those interests are widely shared throughout this country — a challenge that affects parents, children and citizens in almost every community in America should not be a Democratic problem or a Republican problem. It is an American problem.

I’m grateful that two Republicans joined Democrats to pass this proposal in the Senate last week. And I’m equally grateful that Speaker Pelosi has called back the House of Representatives to a special session so that they can vote as well.

I urge members of both parties to come together and get this done so that I can sign this bill into law. I urge Congress to pass this proposal so that the outstanding teachers who are here today can go back to educating our children. America is watching and America is waiting for Washington to act. So let’s show the nation that we can.

I want to thank Rachel as well as Shannon not only for being here today, but for the extraordinary work that they’re doing each and every day with special education children, with kindergarteners so they’re getting off to a right start. And I also want to thank Arne Duncan, who has been doing as much as anybody all across the country to try to emphasize how important it is to make sure that we are providing a first-class education to every single one of our children.

This bill helps us do that. And so it’s time for Democrats and Republicans to come together and get it done.

Thank you very much, everybody.


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