Tallahassee, FL - School policy has managed to remain a hot topic in Florida politics for the past 2 years now, leading State Rep. Carlos G. Smith (D-49) to get into a heated exchange over school funding with State Rep. Randy Fine (R-53), where he called the "Putting Parents First" bill a political attack.
Rep. Fine took his bill to the floor of the Florida House of Representatives, in which Democrats stood in fierce opposition. Many opponents of the legislation have claimed this law would punish school districts who reinforce mask mandates, with a theorized $200 million in funding stripped from these counties.
"Putting Parents First," plans to take this supposed $200 million in funding and reallocate those funds to 55 school districts that made masks optional for students.
"We're talking about $200 million to reward 55 school districts that did the right thing and send a message to 12 that you hurt your children, don't do it again," Fine said during a House Appropriations Committee meeting on Feb. 9.
Today, Fine met more opposition from Florida's most progressive legislator, Rep. Carlos Smith, who stood up for his own district that he voiced would lose "$17 million," characterizing the bill as a political attack.
Rep. Fine responded to Rep. Smith during Tuesday's legislative session, saying, "Every school district in the state of Florida will be receiving an increase in funds under this budget. Those 12 school districts, the most you could say is that their budget will not be increasing as much. In Orange County they will be seeing an almost $100 million increase in funding this year, which is a 6.11% increase, there are no cuts in Orange County."
"I am a bit confused by your answer, I am looking at the Putting Parents First Adjustment which has been described as a cut everywhere I've heard it discussed," added Fine. And it is showing in red, 'Orange County Public Schools, $17 million.' So are we not enacting punitive budget cuts against these districts for political purposes? What is the justification for this?"
Fine then blamed the "corporate media," for distorting the numbers and the bill's categorization of a budget cut. This bill is intended to be a "reward," for what Fine calls, "followed the law, put parents first, and respecting parents' rights, they will be rewarded for what it is that they did."