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Florida governor vetoes budget for online learning amid pandemic

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisPolice called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Officials: Florida man changed Gov. DeSantis's address, delaying him from voting Voting rights groups warn of problems in Florida MORE (R) vetoed the budget for a package of online education programs that have played key roles for students and educators during the coronavirus pandemic. 

DeSantis's veto, issued Monday, killed the $29.4 million budget for the Complete Florida Plus Program, which provides online platforms that have become more prominent as students and teachers adopt distance learning. The veto also will scrap a database of online courses and an online library service. 

More than 2,000 adult students could lose their scholarships, and roughly 150 employees in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Pensacola could lose their jobs, according to Politico.

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Complete Florida will go offline at midnight without any new sources of funding, meaning that library databases, among other tools, would become unavailable in the middle of the college summer semester.

The cut was part of a broader veto of $1 billion from Florida’s 2020-21 budget as the state tries to grapple with a burgeoning outbreak of the coronavirus.

“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 morel,” DeSantis said in a statement.

Critics slammed the veto, saying it leaves educators without crucial tools they’ve come to rely on during the coronavirus pandemic.

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

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The State University System of Florida defended the move, saying it is working to collaborate with other bodies to implement new programs.

"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," it said in a statement.

"This transition allows us to address previously identified challenges within the Complete Florida Plus Program, while continuing the critical components that are of great benefit to our college and university students. We are confident that new management will improve oversight and decision-making processes," it added.