Florida is on track to continue its designation as a COVID-19 hotspot in America. Despite that and the resistance to locking down the state to quell the spread of the virus, Governor DeSantis killed the budget line for online learning throughout the state.
During the outbreak, the Complete Florida Plus Program became a lifeline for students to continue their education online. The program includes a collection of research databases, as well as an online library, with provides 17 million books to more than 1.3 million students, faculty, and and staff. The $24 million dollar cut will impact elementary, middle, and high schoolers, as well as college and university students throughout the state. Over 2,000 adult students will lose their scholarships, and over 150 employees will lose their jobs.
The cuts will directly impact the Florida Academic Library Services Cooperative, a resource that provides journals, ebooks, and and additional education and information resources to higher educational institutions throughout the state. This comes in the middle of summer semesters, leaving students without access to the materials they need in order to complete their studies.
Many libraries throughout the state of Florida have seen their budgets slashed in the wake of the pandemic, further hindering access to resources.
DeSantis has not commented on the cuts, and spokespeople for him have sent reporters into a dizzying circle of non-comments and referrals to other departments for response. The line-item veto from DeSantis is a direct attack on the well fare of people throughout the state.
Nearly 153,000 people in Florida are sick with COVID-19 and over 3,500 have been killed by the virus. DeSantis’s leadership has been hands off, leading to unfathomable numbers of new cases every day over the last few weeks as beaches, bars, and other social hubs are not under restrictions.
Now, without access to digital resources, DeSantis has further harmed the people he was voted to help. Information access is vital any time, but during a pandemic of misinformation, particularly in an election year, it’s hard not to see the move as politically-driven. The haves become further divided from the have-nots.
In the midst of a school semester and a pandemic, the sudden cut or resources — tools went offline today, July 1, the start of the fiscal year — it’s impossible not to wonder how those who are most in need won’t be impacted tremendously. Moreover, DeSantis’s insistence on continuing to open up the state will only leave the vulnerable in positions to become sacrifices to state GOP politics.