Guest column: Rick Johnson: Support Public Broadcasting in Supporting Life-Long Learners

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Guest commentary

For more than 40 years, public broadcasting has been a valuable resource to the citizens of Florida. WGCU Public Media will soon celebrate its 30th year serving Southwest Florida and as part of the statewide public broadcasting education system, we have been honored to provide students, teachers and parents with the tools they need to be successful.

Last year, for the first time in Florida's history, state support for public broadcasting was vetoed from the budget. For WGCU that meant a $522,000 reduction of our overall $5 million budget. This substantial cut in funding has greatly impacted the programs, services and educational outreach we are able to provide to the citizens of Southwest Florida. During the past year we have eliminated valuable part-time positions and reduced the hours of others. We have cut back on the production of documentaries that allow us to explore the history of Southwest Florida and provide historical documents for classrooms across our seven-county service area. We have curtailed outreach activities and put off replacing outdated equipment.

As we look to the next fiscal year, without the reinstatement of state funding, we will have to continue to make cuts to the programs and educational services that are at the core of our mission to "educate" and "engage" our community.

Each and every week, WGCU delivers over 60 hours of standards-based children's programs that help parents and caregivers prepare our children for school. We conduct workshops in schools and libraries to help kids improve their reading skills. Through our Curious Kids project, this year alone we have reached more than 500 families, providing them with skills to help their kids be lifelong learners.

On a statewide basis, for the past 40 years Florida Public Broadcasting Service (FPBS) stations have worked with the Florida Department of Education to provide educational resources to Florida's students, teachers, parents and citizens of all ages. Through educational initiatives like Curious Kids, Ready to Learn and KidVision Pre-K, FPBS stations utilize statewide standards-based, digital content that focuses on early childhood literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills to help further educate Florida's children. This year, FPBS stations will launch a new digital learning library for teachers and students called Florida PBS LearningMedia. This resource provides more than 14,000 digital learning objects — video clips, documents, audio files, lesson plans and more — selected by teams of content experts, curriculum specialists and classroom teachers to address the challenges and opportunities of education in the 21st century. Florida PBS LearningMedia will be available, free, to every teacher and student in every classroom and home in the state.

The value Florida taxpayers get with public broadcasting is demonstrated throughout the state in remarkable and measurable ways. For every dollar invested by the state, more than $10 in services is realized by Floridians. These services reach more than 99 percent of Florida's population.

The impact of last year's elimination of state funding has been felt in every community in the state as public broadcasting stations cut back and in some cases eliminate programs and initiatives, thus impacting the quality of life for all Floridians.

That's why WGCU has teamed up with the state association of public broadcasters, FPBS, to ask you to contact Gov. Rick Scott and your local legislators to let them know what you think about state support for public broadcasting, not only in Southwest Florida but for every community across the state.

For more information about how you can have your voice heard on this critical decision, go to wgcu.org and click on the FPBS logo on our homepage.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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