On Tuesday the League of Women Voters of Florida held a press call with partners discussing the disastrous effects Amendment 5 would have on Florida’s education system were it to pass. Amendment 5 was placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature and would require a two-thirds supermajority vote of the Legislature to raise any state taxes or fees.
“When it comes to providing for our students, Florida lawmakers fail the test,” said Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “Currently, the state of Florida gives away more in tax breaks and credits than it spends on K-12 education combined – and Amendment 5 would make it nearly impossible for future lawmakers to change that.”
According to the Florida Policy Institute, Florida ranks 47th in attracting and retaining effective teachers, 44th in high school graduation rates, 42nd in spending per K-12 student, 49th in K-12 spending as a percentage of personal income, and 42nd in per pupil spending for Voluntary Pre-K (VPK). As state funding has decreased, mandates on schools have increased, creating impossible choices for many local school districts.
Hillsborough County School Board member Cindy Stuart shared the difficulties that school boards face. “Per pupil spending has been restored to pre-recession levels, but with mandates – and only to the same levels as 10 years ago. While per-student spending was restored, we have less for transportation and less for instruction materials than previously, with more students to serve. I don’t want to sound like I am being too hard on the Legislature, but when the recession ended we expected the Legislature to restore our funding and they have not,” she said.
“By requiring a supermajority vote of the Legislature for approval of any future tax or fee increase, what they’re doing is empowering a superminority of politicians who will be able to block any attempts to eliminate any loopholes, tax breaks, or credits,” said Joe Pennisi, Chairman of Floridians for Tax Fairness.
In 1992, Oklahoma voters approved a constitutional amendment that imposed a supermajority requirement to raise taxes. David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, offered his insights: “Ultimately, we saw a funding crisis that lasted much longer than it should have. Even with one party having a supermajority of seats, as the majority were seeking to solve the problem, a minority of legislators were able to hold out and keep anything from happening. Oklahoma stands as a cautionary tale that when you unnecessarily impose a supermajority requirement, it makes it difficult to govern and do the right thing at the right time.”