OCPS leaders call on Gov. Scott to veto education budget

By John W. Davis, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 6:46 PM EDT

The state’s education budget took center stage as Orange County public school leaders delivered their 2017 state of the schools address Wednesday morning.

  • Orange County school officials say there will be no classroom cuts
  • OCPS has an $2 billion budget
  • Officials are urging Gov. Scott to veto an education bill

Despite budget concerns, Board Chairman Bill Sublette and Superintendent Barbara Jenkins believe the district is on the right track.

District leaders have promised no classroom cuts.

That's because inside the $2 billion OCPS budget, district leaders have a funding cushion from the local community's approval of a half-cent sales tax.

“We’re not going to have any cuts in academic programs, we’re not going to have any cuts in extra-curricular or cultural programs. No music cuts, no art cuts," said Sublette, who serves as the Orange County School Board Chairman.

However at this time, district leaders are not making the same promise when it comes to giving teachers and staff members long-term raises.

“The biggest implication is that there are very few dollars available for any increase to our teachers and staff," explained Jenkins.

That’s because the current budget approved by state leaders in Tallahassee would give Orange County Public Schools a tiny increase, much lower than inflation.

"Less than one-third percent increase doesn’t really take care of our needs for inflation, the retirement contributions that’s required, increased healthcare costs. It virtually sucks all the money away and leaves nothing for teachers," Jenkins said.

“We think in a year of prosperity where the state is doing well and there are surplus dollars available, there is absolutely no excuse for trimming education," Dr. Jenkins added.

“We value our teachers, we have great teachers in this district and they work hard and we need to do something in a real way, in their checkbook or their pocketbook to show them they matter to us, we’ll find some way to do it with non-recurring dollars," Sublette explained.

Despite disappointment with the state’s limited education budget, the overall tone at the event held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in downtown Orlando was positive.

Chairman Sublette and Superintendent Jenkins highlighted new initiatives aimed at improving student achievement, like a college preparedness portal for families of middle school and high school students and the expansion of the Khan Academy, an online video learning and tutoring program.

Meanwhile, in response to the education budget, the Orange County School Board is sending a letter to Gov. Rick Scott asking him to veto it.

If Scott does not veto the state budget, district leaders said they’re going to work very hard to give teachers and staff members a one-time bonus.

“We’re like any other organization, you have to keep your talent and we’re going to start to lose that talent if this state doesn’t start treating teachers better," Sublette said.