Thursday, June 19, 2008
Democrat seeks District 20 seat
Democrat seeks District 20 seat
Budget, school woes fuel District 20 race
By PETER GUINTA
Publication Date: 06/19/08
Palm Coast businessman Doug Courtney, a Democrat, wants to win the District 20 House seat now occupied by state Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, who is running for a second term in November.
Courtney said this week that he's met and likes Proctor.
Courtney's father, a high school principal, would be proud of his son's 25 years in education.
Courtney graduated with an MBA from Xavier University and now owns two companies in Florida, both connected to information technology.
But don't get him started on the severe Republican cuts to Florida's education funding.
"I've been in education a long time. I ran because I didn't like the direction this state is going," he said. "Funding for schools is down $6 billion. Our school system, which worked well for 220 years, is being starved to death by the Republicans."
Part of that he blames on an explosion in state spending.
"In 1998, the state budget was $35 billion. In 2008, it's $77 billion," he said.
Florida's education priorities also are skewed, he said. The K-12 budget rose only 3 percent over the last five years.
"In 2004, for every $1 spent on universities, $10 was spent on K-12. But now, for every university dollar, K-12 gets only $4. The ratios have really shrunk," he said. "In the past five years, the state increased K-12 spending $200 million. But colleges and universities got $1.5 billion." During that period, the state approved the founding of two more universities, one a medical school, he said.
"What good is it to add two new universities when we can't get our kids out of high school?" Courtney said, adding that St. Augustine schools were hit with a $9.3 million loss of state funding while Flagler College lost $500,000.
"I'm not saying (Proctor) did anything wrong," he said. "But he's in the majority party and still can't get anything done to get this resolved."
Courtney said he'd fund physical, teacher and technical training, oppose vouchers as draining money from public schools, rebuild charter schools and work to have the 10-year-old FCAT abolished because it costs $72 million a year and accomplishes nothing.
He supports proposals by Democratic legislators to address Florida's insurance crisis.
Democratic legislators want smaller, independent home insurance carriers that would cover the millions of customers flocking to the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Co.
"We can't rely on Citizens for everything," he said. "The Republican majority seems to be in favor of large companies. They're wiping out the small businessman. The nation runs on small businesses."
He said St. Augustine and other coastal North Florida communities could benefit from smaller insurance companies.
"We don't have to be tied to the Miami Beach area. The state seems to be run by the South Florida Legislature. We have to stand up for our own issues," he said, adding that education is his No. 1 issue.
"The majority of students we have to educate are not in universities; they're K-12," he said. "Florida has not improved (its national ranking) in 10 years. We're still 49th or 50th. We can easily call (our education system) a failure."
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