School Board Passes Resolution Saying State is Failing its Students
By Karen Voyles
A single glimmer of financial hope came out of Tuesday night´s Alachua County School Board meeting. Congress may be about to take action that will keep many nurses in the schools.
Earlier this week, principals began notifying most of the district´s nurses that their positions may not exist during the 2008-09 school year. The district has 42 school nurses and 29 of them receive their combined $1 million in salaries through Medicaid reimbursement. Congress was prepared to end the program this spring.
Board member Tina Pinkoson told the board on Tuesday that Congress is considering a bill that would extend the reimbursement program through April 2009.
Despite the possibility that the district will have money to pay for the nurses next year, more than two dozen of them have or will soon receive letters notifying them their positions are not guaranteed when school resumes in August.
The district also plans to notify teachers this week who will not be offered a contract for the next school year. Budget concerns are not a factor in those decisions, according to district spokeswoman Jackie Johnson.
While district officials await word from Washington, D.C., on the fate of the nurses, they are working with the Alachua County Education Association on an April 29 bus trip to Tallahassee to lobby state lawmakers. School district and association officials plan to present a resolution passed by the board Tuesday night as a talking point while meeting with legislators.
The resolution, which passed unanimously, reads in part that “the Florida Constitution requires the state provide a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools,” but that the “state has failed to provide students their fundamental rights.”
As an example of how the state is shortchanging students, board member Eileen Roy pointed out that the state used to pay 60 percent of the per-student budget for public schools, but is now only providing about 49 percent of the per-student costs.
“It´s at a record, record low,” Roy said.
Financial constraints have become such a big concern that board members are even questioning relatively small bills such as the one from the University of Florida for use of the O´Connell Center for high school graduation ceremonies. UF plans to bill the district about $29,000, approximately the same amount as last year, for use of the arena.
Some board members chided UF for what they considered an excessive fee, particularly when about 10 percent of those who will graduate during a ceremony at the O´Connell Center will become UF freshmen later in the year.
“It slays me that they are not a good community partner,” said board member Ginger Childs. “This is one little way they could help.”
Roy said that while there are certainly some expenses associated with using the center, UF should try to help the financially strapped district "in the interest of good community relations."
In other action Tuesday, the board voted to:
* Allow the Professional Academies Magnet at Loften to use block scheduling as long as the school meets the class size amendment. Loften´s block plan means students will attend four longer classes a day instead of six approximately hour-long classes.
* Spend $738,200 to have the roof replaced at Prairie View Elementary School within six months.
* Accept a bid of $4.7 million to build a new science classroom building at Santa Fe High School within a year.
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