FL Supporters Amplify Need for Biden's Free Community College Plan

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Despite the raging pandemic, college students are flooding Florida classrooms and campuses this week as the fall semester begins. At the same time, allies of President Joe Biden contend in order to "Build Back Better," as his plan is dubbed, the first two years of community college should be free.

During a Thursday virtual news conference by the labor union United Faculty of Florida, Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., said the change would make drastic improvements in students' lives, who are often saddled with debt.

"Two years of free community college would be a life-changer, a game-changer for so many," Soto asserted. "Additional investments in education in the American Family plan reduce student debt for future teachers as well, which we know is critical for so many."

A divided U.S. House on Tuesday passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution with the free college proposal, which now has to gain approval of the spending hawks in the Senate.

Republicans have been blasting the overall American Families Plan as a "reckless tax and spending spree," arguing it would lead to higher inflation and a suffering economy.

Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, is a community college graduate, and used the proverb about teaching a man to fish to explain the need for free community college.

"All those of us that are Latinos and Latinas in the minority community, you know, that's all we're asking for," Cruz remarked. "You know, we're not asking for the handout of your fish, we're asking for the opportunity, and a chance to equalize our opportunity."

According to the Pew Research Center, among all U.S. adults, 63% favor making tuition at public colleges free. However, the issue is heavily favored by Democrats, while Republicans are divided by age and education level.

GoFundMe, Federal Aid Offered to School Officials in Masking Disputes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As the DeSantis administration continues its attempt to block school districts from imposing public-health protections on students, Democrats are fighting back by promising to launch a GoFundMe campaign.

This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to dock the salaries of district superintendents and county school board members who mandate mask-wearing in schools.

Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, and his colleagues said if the governor moves forward, they will launch the GoFundMe effort.

"The number one goal that we have here is to make sure we're protecting children, and if the federal government is going to help, we're going to accept that help," Powell asserted. "If the governor intends to defund public education, then we as Democrats will do everything in our power to fill the gap."

The Governor's statement was met with instant rebuke by many, including Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hannah, who said, "You can't put a price tag on someone's life, including my salary."

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted federal American Rescue Plan money intended to help Florida schools respond to COVID could also be used to help fill the gap.

Masks are a key coronavirus-prevention tool that doesn't pose health risks to kids, and the CDC has recommended their use in schools.

Powell argued the governor is simply playing politics.

"Playing political football with the lives of children or with the lives of people who live here in the state of Florida is not conducive to the ultimate goal of making this state a better place than when we found it," Powell contended.

Last month, DeSantis issued an executive order forbidding schools to issue mask mandates. At least three school districts, in Alachua, Broward, and Leon counties, have appeared to defy the governor's order.