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A Few Florida Facts for Republican National Convention Delegates

| August 27, 2012

republican nationbal convention florida tampa

A state where Jurassic policies can feel at home. (Josh McConnell)

By Dan Gelber

Republican conventioneers, welcome to Florida. It is only fitting you are convening here, as we truly are the laboratory for your tax policy, your education innovation and your quest for pure markets. Here in Florida, our Republican governors and right-wing legislatures have turned your bumper stickers into state policies. So, please take a stroll out of your hotel to see first-hand how well your approach to governance has fared.

First, we have taken your “less government” mantra very seriously and shrunk state government spending to national lows. According to the U.S. Census, Florida state government employs fewer workers for its residents than any other state. The salaries of our state employees rank 43rd in the nation — teachers rank 46th — and most Florida state workers haven’t seen a raise in six years.

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No state took less stimulus dollars per person than Florida and Gov. Rick Scott has turned away billions we were offered to build a high-speed rail connecting our coasts.

We spend less on higher education per capita than any other state, and are 47th for K-12 spending.

Our stringent testing regimen and use of school choice vouchers is unequalled and no state exceeds our commitment to privatizing public education. Each year we divert hundreds of millions of dollars to “scholarships” (we don’t use the word “voucher” anymore.) We have also made the organizing principle of our school system a minimal competence test that is now used to determine the pay scale and job security of our teachers. According to Education Week, few states test and measure their students as much as Florida.

Our approach to burdensome regulations and tax policy has made us as “business friendly” and anti-labor as a state can be. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only about 6 percent of our work force is unionized. The Tax Foundation, Forbes, CEO Magazine and Inc. Magazine all agree Florida is a Top 10 business-friendly state. We have no personal income tax and our governor last year reduced the corporate tax rate, in part, by cutting $1.3 billion from the education budget.

We are vehemently anti-Obama’s health care reform. Our last two attorneys general led the charge to declare it unconstitutional, and even after it was declared the law of the land, our governor announced he will not implement it.

So there you have it. Florida under the leadership of Republican icons like Bush, Scott and Rubio, and supported by proud and unthinking GOP legislatures for the last 15 years, has happily served as the grow house for Republican sound bites.

And the results are stunning.

Florida continues to have one of the worst high school graduation rates in the nation; and our seniors who do graduate have some of the lowest ACT and SAT scores around (47th and 46th in the country.) More than half the kids who graduate are not reading at grade level. So, while we have learned that testing is not teaching, if you have enough tests you get to declare success without actually achieving it.

The impact of our failure to invest in and educate our workforce is obvious. Despite our business-friendly reputation, our workforce cannot support high-wage industries. Our median household income is in the bottom quarter of the 50 states, and most of the jobs we produce tend to be low-wage. Our governor brags about improving state unemployment numbers, even though his own economists point out that the declining jobless rate is mostly due to Floridians deserting the work force.

And our “free market” approach to health care has left 4 million residents — including half a million children — “free” of any health insurance.

Well, these are the facts and as President Reagan liked to say, “facts are stubborn things.”

So with the high hopes that your convention will be about how to build a better tomorrow rather than birth certificates and other nonsense, you really ought to learn the lessons of our state because bumper stickers, frankly, don’t always make for good policies. America’s exceptionalism can only be sustained by assuring the next generation has at least the same tools to prosper and fulfill their dreams as we enjoyed. In the nation, and here in Florida, these tools have always been, and always will be, found in public education.

So enjoy yourselves, I hope the hurricane misses you and, please, spend lots of money. Our schools are really hurting.

Dan Gelber was a State Senator and former House Democratic Leader from Miami.

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15 Responses for “A Few Florida Facts for Republican National Convention Delegates”

  1. Jack Stewart says:

    I keep asking myself why do I read a publication that is so liberal and one sided.. And then I remember that old saying…Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

  2. sam8131 says:

    Be espically careful of that “Hope and Change” bumper sticker. It’s a lie.

    How many blacks are out of work in Florida now?

  3. Lonewolf says:

    “We are vehemently anti-Obama’s health care reform.” WHO’s WE?

  4. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    [Obamacare] even after it was declared the law of the land, our governor announced he will not implement it.-

    This statement is not exactly accurate, and I would think a former house leader would, or should, know it’s not true. The Governor has refused to enact the part of the law that was declared unconstitutional, he has no ability to refuse to enact the vast majority of it that was found to be constitutional. That part is the medicare expansion mandate. Where essentially the Feds wanted to dictate to Florida and other states that you must expand your medicare rolls, with the feds covering the expansion only for the first three years, and after that what is already a huge unfunded liability for the state becomes an even bigger one.

  5. Clint says:

    So many comments in this article to disagree with. I’ll start with EDUCATION…In order to get a good education you need to have the willingness to LEARN. Next, this is Florida, the place old people go to retire. If you want to raise a family go back up north where all the liberal teachers can show your children how to be gay and fight the establishment. They have plenty of professors who are socialist, atheist, marxist creatures who would love to brainwash your child.

    • Samuel Smith says:

      Well, there you go – if you want an education you need to raise yourself up by your bootstraps, and besides, anyone that wants their kids educated must be soulless atheist commies so move north. I hope I interpreted that comment correctly.

  6. Whew Looey says:

    here is the bastion of liberal theology New yourk city with money in a bottle for the poor guy

    Obama crap sandwich anyone….Alan West

    You demos have a lot of nerve talking about success nwhen you do all you can to snuff it out.

  7. JL says:

    Dan, great article, well said. I grew up in the Florida school system (Seminole County) and my children attended school here in Flagler. The politicians are killing the schools. Now that we have the lovely FCAT, teachers have to spend all their time teaching the test, rather than teaching all of the fundamentals. It’s sad and unfortunate. I received a great education from my schools. And although I feel my sons had terrific teachers, the FCAT got in the way. Vouchers (scholarships) to attend private schools is not the way we should be going. Our children just need some good ol’ basics of reading, writing and arithmetic with some PE thrown in for exercise and art/music to stimulate a little creativity. Although I would like to suggest a couple of extras – a class in manners, and a class in cell phone etiquette.

  8. B.W.Smith says:

    These are the kind of head in sand partisan comments you would expect from a Democratic leader. What has Obama done to improve our lives? Some of those points made we should be very proud of! Since when is it the responsibility of government to control our lives? Long term politicians who are only concerned about filling their own pockets make comments like this!!

  9. Huey Looey says:

    Typical divert and attack……beats trying to create jobs I guess.

    Here is your investment in the public schools paying back huge dividends….these people are past stupid….

  10. question says:

    So much truth in one article…the ‘killing the middle class even thought they themselves are in it’ crowd will have to work overtime to find non-existent holes here. Great piece Dan Gelber.

    Save yourselves…Read this book: “What’s the Matter With White People? … How and why the white working class became the Republican base, in defiance of its own economic interests.”

    book written by Joan Walsh.

    • Clint says:

      Joan Walsh is one of the most anti-white far left liberals out there. She hates the fact she was born white and it shows. youtube is filled with clips of her lamenting white people for one thing or another.

  11. JL says:

    From Clint – “Next, this is Florida, the place old people go to retire. If you want to raise a family go back up north where all the liberal teachers can show your children how to be gay…”

    Clint – whatever rock you climbed out from under, please do us all a favor and return to it. Yes, this is Florida. The Sunshine State. We are a fun, laid back state where you can sit on the beach and let your worries drift away. Just a state for old people? Are you one of those old people who came down here to retire? Sorry, this state is open to everyone, all ages. And what an ignorant comment “can show your children how to be gay? Really?? Clearly you are lacking in the education department. People are born with their sexual preference. But that discussion is for another time.

    This state welcomes everyone. Fortunately we even take the narrow minded, ignorant folk. If you don’t like it, you are free to go somewhere else. We surely won’t miss you.
    Florida is for young and old and families. And our children deserve a quality education.

  12. Lonewolf says:

    Whew Looey…get out of the right wing bubble and do some of your own research. Just listening to Faux News and Limbaugh is no way to decide how to vote…GET THE FACTS

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