About Those Teacher Layoffs

Plantation Park Elementary, where my daughter goes, sends out a newsletter every month, and in the June edition, there's a blurb titled: "Goodbye and Good Luck."

In it, seven teachers are listed as leaving due to budget cuts and ends: "We will miss their smiling faces!" 

One of the teachers, Mrs. Bramhall, was one of my daughter's favorites. She taught art, which my daughter loved. Don't know who's going to teach first-graders art next year, probably no one. Other layoffs included the school's family and guidance counselors. And she was one of 396 teachers laid off countywide.  

Why did the School Board do it? Let's say each teacher cost the board $80,000 a year. With 396 teachers laid off, that comes to about $32 million.

Sounds like a lot of money, until you look at the board's $3 Billion construction department budget. And finding waste there is so easy, it's not even funny. You have at least a million wasted in this Ron Book special deal, for instance. I hear another million was recently squandered on the highest bid for a high school's athletic facility. And then there's one of the Big Kahunas, the bus depot project, known as the SW Area Bus Parking Facility. After selling the School Board the land for the bus depot, which was supposedly desperately needed ten years ago, Ron Bergeron also landed the contract to develop the project. His company, Bergeron Land Development, won the contract with a $4 million bid. The firm was supposed to get the work done in 150 days and have it completed by September 8, 2005.

Fast-forward to today. The thing still isn't finished, and its construction budget has ballooned to about $11 million. You can read all about it in this independent audit report. Hurricane Wilma slowed down efforts but is no excuse for the boondoggle this project has become.

And, again, that's really just another drop in the bucket. Tens of millions of dollars have been wasted on unnecessary construction -- and now dedicated school employees (Plantation Park is actually a wonderful school) are being tossed to the curb. So why aren't all the necessary cuts being taken from the bloated construction budget and teachers being saved? Because the construction department is not only a sacred cow but a cash cow for the special interests that flood money into the school system.

Smiling faces? I don't think so. 

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Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman