Last April Governor Rick Scott vetoed money for the Florida Education Channel (FEC) a program run through the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium (PAEC). Now, the FEC has until the end of August to come up with enough funds to stay open.
For nearly twenty years the FEC has produced free or low-cost programs to help teachers across the state meet their continuing education requirements. They have broadcasted and streamed, video courses that have been used by teachers around the world.The services are offered for a fraction of what it would cost to take a similar course through a private company.
"Our infrastructure can provide training at twenty percent what the [average] state of Florida cost is. So the cost for training teachers will go up eighty percent overnight. The issue is far more significant for the smaller districts which actually, thirty-two of Florida's sixty-seven school districts are considered small and rural" said PAEC and FEC Program Coordinator, Rick Everitt.
Employees told News Channel 7 the FEC has received high marks from state auditors every year. They said they didn't think legislators understood how the cuts would effect their programs and educators in the state.
"The legislature is in a very tight situation and they're looking for a return on investment, and we think we're the poster child for that statewide. Our frustration is that the decision makers have not been to PAEC. They've not seen our infrastructure and we think they've not heard our story."
One professional development consultant who works with PAEC, Dr. Dale Henry told us, "the impact for teachers, the impact for educators, the impact for students- it will be massive...For the bang for your buck, it would be devastating."
Everitt said he hoped the legislature would help PAEC come up with enough funding to keep the FEC in business at least until next year's budget process. If not, six people will lose their jobs.