Floridians, I need a favor

That the Florida economy blows is no secret, and that our legislature has a hard-on for smacking around higher education is well known, but I'm going to as you to do something for me. The cuts that are expected to come down from Tallahassee are going to be monstrous, and this is on top of cuts from the last two years in a row. We're at the point where people will be losing their jobs next, because there's nowhere else to go. So I'm asking you to contact your state Senators and Representatives and ask them to find a way to avoid any further cuts. We're not even asking for more money here--we're just asking to hold onto what we have.

The UFF sent out a letter to its members today, and I'm reprinting the majority of it here. Feel free to pull from it for your emails or letters or phone calls to your state legislators--I'm sure the UFF won't mind.

I am writing to urge you to support higher education in Florida in the upcoming legislative session, specifically by working against further erosion of funding levels for the state’s universities. The arguments for this request are compelling. They are as follows:

The fastest way out of a recession, leaving Florida with a stronger workforce than when the recession began, is to increase funding for higher education. When people are unemployed, they need access to higher education so they can upgrade their credentials and skills and emerge ready for a better job. Without education, workers emerge from a recession less able to contribute to the workforce, pay taxes, and support themselves without reliance on social programs.

If students seeking to enroll are denied access in a recession, they join the ranks of the unemployed – swelling joblessness. If students who are already enrolled cannot get the classes they need for graduation, they waste time and money as they seek their degrees.

The student-faculty ratio in Florida is now the worst in the nation for universities – we rank fiftieth. Public colleges have 50,000 new students this year with no additional full-time faculty to teach them. More cuts mean more faculty layoffs, fewer classes, and fewer qualified faculty to teach essential subjects.

The quality of higher education is already in jeopardy. The staffing necessary to run programs is on the brink of collapse after a brain drain that has lasted several years. The annual turnover rate in the universities is currently 14%. This means the range of courses students need to complete a degree, with faculty qualified and ready to teach specialized courses, is in peril.

For two decades funding for higher education has been shrinking as a portion of the state’s budget. The result is that programs are stretched to their limits. Since September 2007, Florida’s universities have suffered cuts of 11.4% ($425 million) and public colleges have been cut 12.8% ($153 million) in program and lottery funds. Further cuts will force layoffs of faculty and a collapse of many programs. In other words, students who are enrolled at a Florida university and have made financial sacrifices for an education will have to defer their aspirations.

We can fund higher education (with no more cuts) by closing tax loopholes and rescinding tax giveaways. New revenue comes from everyone paying a fair share of taxes which are then invested in Florida’s economy and in the future of students. If the 2009 Legislature cannot agree on how to pass this legislation, then it should pass a temporary sales tax increase until legislators can agree on tax reform.
I appreciate any help you can give.

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