By Bill Mattox, JMI Resident Fellow
The Florida Department of Education came under attack recently after it announced plans to close the Gwen Cherry Child Development Center in Tallahassee at the end of April. The Cherry Center, which serves 71 children of state employees, has been receiving an annual state subsidy of $150,000 – which amounts to just over $2,000 per child.When the DOE determined that it could no longer justify this expense, several parents and state legislators protested, claiming that Cherry is being picked on unfairly.It’s hard to imagine that most Florida taxpayers would find DOE’s decision objectionable. During hard economic times, every government agency should be cutting its least justifiable (or most unjustifiable) expenses first. After all, that’s what millions of belt-tightening Floridians are having to do with their household budgets.To keep the center open, would the Cherry lovers prefer to see DOE save $150,000 by firing several employees? By instituting an across-the-board pay cut? It’s important to note that the $2,000 per-child subsidy that the Cherry Center provided was not part of a larger “cafeteria benefits” plan which ensured that all state employees received equal compensation for equal work. It was instead a $2,000 “perk” or “bonus” that only Cherry parents received – at taxpayer expense.Considered in this light, the DOE can hardly be accused of saying to parents, “Let them eat cake.” For DOE is merely removing a once-favored group’s special Cherry on top.