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Voters take stand for education
A Times Editorial
Published January 30, 2008
The political atmosphere surrounding property taxes could hardly be more poisonous, which is why the Pinellas vote on Tuesday sent such a powerful message to schoolteachers and to lawmakers. The former should take pride; the latter ought to be ashamed.
This is the second time in four years the Pinellas voters have agreed to increase their own property taxes to raise teacher salaries and enhance the curriculum. They do it because they want their children to receive the best education possible, and the state fails to provide it. The Constitution mandates a "high quality education"; lawmakers are content to cry poverty and pay teachers $5,700 less than the national average.
A third of Florida's counties now have increased either sales or property taxes to supplement the state's meager school budget. But to hear Gov. Charlie Crist and top lawmakers tell it, Floridians are motivated only by the desire to lower their taxes. To hear legislative appropriators talk, the only option left with a $2.5-billion shortfall is to further cut public education.
As the people of Pinellas were voting overwhelmingly to invest in their schools Tuesday, the people's governor told a reporter he voted "no." If this is what passes for leadership in education, it certainly comes cheap.