Today I had the opportunity to address the entire Hillsborough Legislative Delegation (minus a few members). I am grateful for their patience and attentional stamina considering they sat there for six hours and listened to local elected officials and well over one hundred constituents covering numerous topics. I tried to stick to the big picture concerns about education here in Florida, and my comments to them are below.
Good afternoon, Honorable Legislative Delegates. My name is Ryan Haczynski and I am honored and blessed to serve as a public school teacher. I am the Theory of Knowledge instructor and Extended Essay Coordinator for the IB Programme at Strawberry Crest High School. I also feel privileged to have this opportunity because it is not often I would be able to address all of you at one time. I am a Social Studies teacher who firmly believes in being an exemplar of civic engagement, which is why I took personal time to be here today.
I should preface the rest of my statement by saying I am an independent voter and public education advocate who cares deeply about our children and their future. I believe it is the fundamental right of all students in the Sunshine State to receive a free, high-quality education wherever their parents choose, but I am gravely concerned about the level of funding being dedicated to this endeavor.
Adjusted for inflation, our current funding levels are $1,100 lower than funding a decade ago. Many school districts including our own are struggling to keep pace with rising costs, most especially due to rampant population growth in eastern and southern Hillsborough.
Though it was only meant to be a short-term measure to help us through the Great Recession, we have never moved the millage rate back to 2.0. Now with the mandatory capital outlay sharing provision in HB7069 that deems some of this funding go directly to charter schools, districts throughout the state will now be further financially hamstrung.
I realize that some of you might reject this proposal for partisan reasons alone, but I am a moderate in all things who always seeks compromise and common ground so that all can share in prosperity. I would encourage you to revisit Senator David Simmons’ proposal to lift the millage rate to 1.7, if only to defray the loss of funding earmarked for our charter schools.
As has been noted previously by other elected officials, our state budgets continue to exceed our revenues. We cannot continue to dip into trust funds or other savings just because of the overwhelming anti-tax sentiment that prevails in Tallahassee. Trust me, I am as fiscally conservative and frugal as they come. But I would gladly pay more in property tax or otherwise if it meant we could move Florida education funding to at least the national average, which we currently lag by nearly $4,000 per pupil.
I am a saver and investor. I understand the business world; my father was a business owner and manager, and he lamented my choice to become an educator. But businesses know that by reinvesting a portion of their profits it helps the entire community prosper. By making a badly needed investment in our education system we will attract more people and businesses to Florida, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of economic activity and ensuring a bright future for all of our children.
Thank you for your time, attention, and leadership in the capitol. May you, your family, and all Floridians be well.