Thursday, January 31, 2008

Things that make you go Hmmmm III

Note the dates below:

Layoffs 'Very, Very Likely' At USF
By ADAM EMERSON, The Tampa Tribune - January 18, 2008

TAMPA - The University of South Florida plans to cut more than $52 million from its budget during the next two years, a grim prospect that likely will force layoffs and could further reduce the number of students accepted. Half of that comes this year and includes $12.2 million USF has cut as a result of a $1 billion state budget shortfall. Every public service from education to law enforcement has felt the pinch.

That's just the start, however. State economists predict a $2 billion shortfall next fiscal year, a symptom of Florida's housing woes that are depleting tax collections. Anticipating those bad times, USF leaders will spend the next two weeks considering how to cut $26 million more out of next fiscal year's budget.

All public universities are feeling the pain. USF, for one, froze all hiring Thursday and halted the search under way for new faculty members. Today, Florida State University trustees will consider a plan to eliminate as many as 118 faculty and 100 other positions.

Layoffs are "very, very likely" at USF, Provost Ralph Wilcox said. The university also may consider reducing enrollment further, making it harder for prospective students to gain entry.

Of course, the "state budget shortfall" is only minimally explained by the housing slump. Florida never has taxed its citizens much to begin with. Our constitution prohibits income taxes and inheritance taxes. From that meager beginning, Jeb Bush's government has cut taxes to the wealthy and the corporate interests over the past 10 years. The "budget shortfall" is simply the result of the wealthy paying less and less with the resulting shift of the tax burden onto the working poor through regressive taxes like sales taxes and fees.

So, the universities are already in trouble. Now this....

State University System board proposes 8% tuition hike to halt downward financial spiral

Luis Zaragoza, Sentinel Staff Writer - January 25, 2008

Florida's public-university students could face an 8 percent tuition increase this fall if the state's Board of Governors gets its way.

State legislators wasted no time denouncing the board's decision Thursday, saying it threatens the financial health of two tuition-payment programs and questioning the board's authority to set tuition. "People are concerned about keeping their jobs. They're concerned about being able to pay for their housing," said state Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Higher Education Appropriations. "At a time when we want students to go to college more than ever before, I don't think now is the time to raise tuition."…

It's probably important to note here that Florida universities have among the lowest tuition in the country. It's also important to note that the same Republicans who have cut taxes for their wealthy backers now oppose tuition increases. Finally, it's probably worth noting that Jeb Bush's government has increasingly demanded "accountability" from schools while cutting their budgets. More work, less money, more "accountability" but never for the budgeters.

Though the idea of double-digit increases was briefly alluring, some board members noted even that wasn't enough to push Florida's lowest-in-the-nation tuition into the nation's upper tier. If the 8 percent increase comes to pass, it would raise $32 million during the 2008-09 budget year. Undergraduates would pay about $93 more a semester on top of tuition and fees that average about $3,361. Meanwhile, the universities are bracing for a possible second round of budget cuts in the 2007-08 school year because of falling state revenues. Board members said the Legislature could make that call in March.

Individual universities will decide how to cut costs, but the board directed schools to consider layoffs and enrollment caps. The board already has imposed hiring freezes and freshman-class enrollment caps at the state's 11 universities in reaction to state reductions last fall. Some schools also cut library hours and travel budgets.At Florida State University, the school's board of trustees recently approved a plan to lay off nearly 200 employees, including faculty and staff, in anticipation of upcoming cuts.The University of Central Florida, which would face $10.4 million in cuts this spring, made deeper cuts than required during the fall and wound up with about $8 million in reserve, which could soften the blow for future cuts, Provost Terry Hickey said. UCF hasn't considered immediate staff reductions like FSU, but layoffs might be an option, he said.

Layoff worries

At UCF on Thursday, several faculty members said they're worried.Dr. Ron Eaglin, chairman of UCF's engineering-technology department, said he has eliminated some adjunct instructors and graduate assistants and restricted travel. With more cuts expected, things can only get worse. "At some point," he said, "I'm just not going to be able to offer a specific course.... At some point, you're cutting bone."Several professors interviewed for this article described larger class sizes, less interaction with students and low morale. Some said they watched talented colleagues leave for better opportunities. Others described departments buzzing with talk of possible layoffs. "We talk about cuts," said Dr. Elisabet Rutstrom, an economics professor, "but there's really not much that we can do. Right now, I'm focusing on teaching and what my students need."

Again, note the date - Jan. 25, the week prior to the Amendment 1 vote giving more tax breaks to the wealthy and the corporate interests.

So, who will bear these costs? Students will pay more, which will clearly penalize the working class kids, many of them first in their families to attend college. They will have less classes due to layoffs - thus delaying their graduation - and larger classes. UCF already has the nation's highest student/faculty ratio. When I began teaching at UCF six years ago, I was also teaching at Valencia Community College across town. It was the same class with the Gordon Rule intensive writing requirement which led Valencia to cap its classes at 25 to insure its instructors could actually grade the papers. The same class at UCF had 37 in it that summer six years ago. By last year, the exact same class had 75 in it per section. Same pay, twice as much work. And virtually impossible to grade all the papers (some of our instructors teach up to 300 students per semester in Gordon Rule classes). It's a good deal for someone. But probably not the student and clearly not the faculty member.

Now, with the stage set, here's Tuesday night's story:,0,174919.story

Tax cut passes

Aaron Deslatte and Mary Shanklin, Sentinel Staff Writers - January 30, 2008 TALLAHASSEE

Florida voters irritated over their escalating property taxes overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment that will give homeowners back an average of $240. This likely wasn't the final word on tax cuts this year, and many predicted the resounding win could whet the appetites for bigger tax cuts in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Voters on Tuesday shrugged off warnings of dire cutbacks to public safety and school budgets to pass Amendment 1….Building contractor Dennis Hutton voted for it…."I voted for it for the single reason it will save me money on property taxes," Hutton said.

The story was accompanied by a poll with results below:

Poll: Will amendment save housing?
Florida voters approved the property tax amendment in the Jan. 29, 2008 primary election.

Do you think passage of the property tax amendment will stimulate Florida's slumping housing market?

Yes (262 responses) 23.2%
No (790 responses) 70.0%
Not sure (76 responses) 6.7%

1128 total responses (Results not scientific)

So, the voters are clear this doesn't solve the housing slump. It simply gives an average of $240 to homeowners, which means by definition 40% of all Floridians who don't own homes are excluded from its benefits.

Never underestimate the capacity of Florida voters to be manipulated by campaigns appealing to the lowest levels of moral reasoning. Repeatedly Floridians have fallen for the race card, the fear card and most often the greed card. Of course, that is part of our history as a place, sadly. From Ponce de Leon on down, the people who have come to Florida have arrived with self-focused understandings of their presence here - "What's in it for me?" Classic stage two moral reasoning characteristic of young children. Sometimes I wonder why I ever loved this place.

One thing that I have decided after Tuesday's election is simply this: people who are not responsible for funding governments no longer have any standing upon which to demand they be accountable. When the people are socially responsible, funding the services they so readily demand, they can demand accountability. Until then, their demands are revealed as little more than hypocrisy and childish self-focus.

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.

Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.

Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes.

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