Florida Governor Vetoes Budget For Online Learning Despite Ongoing Pandemic

Governor DeSantis on June 30.Screengrab / WPTV News - FL Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast

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DeSantis: he needs to be a “wise steward” in a “vastly different” economy. Critics: educators will lose crucial tools.

The Hill reports that on June 29, Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) vetoed $1 billion from Florida’s 2020–2021 budget, which included funding for a package of online education programs that critics say have been crucial for higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • $29.4 million of the budget had been earmarked for online learning, including funding a database of online courses, an online library service, and the Complete Florida Plus program, which provided an online platform for students and teachers conducting distance learning.
  • POLITICO explains that this cut may cause 2,000 adult students to lose their scholarships and about 150 employees to lose their jobs.
  • Complete Florida went offline at midnight July 1, making the online tools and library databases unavailable to students entering the Fall semester.

DeSantis defended his move as a fiscal necessity in a statement. He said,

Our current economic landscape is vastly different since the Legislature passed this budget in March. As Governor, I must remain a mindful steward of taxpayer dollars. This budget reflects a steadfast commitment to Floridians by safeguarding important investments in key areas including education, the environment, infrastructure, public safety and more.

Critics say that the cuts will leave educators and students lacking important tools to continue learning in the midst of a pandemic.

Tom Messner, executive dean of Library Learning Commons at Florida State College in Jacksonville, Florida, told POLITICO, “This would be one of the biggest negative impacts in higher education in the last couple decades” and “It just seems like an error.”

Meanwhile, the State University System of Florida said it is already working with other bodies to instate new programs to replace Complete Florida. The System said in a statement,

The Governor’s veto provides a pathway for the planned transition of programs that are essential to universities and colleges, including online education services, out of the University of West Florida (UWF). The State University System is collaborating with UWF and the Florida Department of Education to ensure a smart and strategic plan for the transition of the essential programs.

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