While Teachers Are Laid Off, Fortunes Spent on School Butterfly Gardens

Teachers have been getting laid off right and left in Florida’s Broward School District. Despite all the taxes, the money just isn’t there to pay them. This gives an idea of where it went:

For years, Weston developer Roy Rogers planted gardens designed to lure butterflies to Broward schools, using volunteer labor and donated supplies. His generosity and commitment to teaching kids about nature drew plaudits as did his signature act: placing a butterfly on the tip of a delighted child’s nose.

Beginning in 2004, however, the gardens and Rogers’ services were no longer free. The district began paying for them.

Ultimately, over the next four years, Rogers’ firm collected more than $394,000 from the school system, mostly for butterfly gardens but also to aid a school in the hunt for grant funding.

Rogers could have been paid more had the district not run into towering deficits. A three-year contract he agreed to in 2007 was worth up to $1 million.

Does it really cost that much to make a butterfly garden? Not for everyone:

This year, an Eagle Scout at Sunset Lakes Elementary School in Miramar raised funds and installed a butterfly garden complete with benches, fountain, hummingbird feeder and pathway for about $600, using donated and discounted supplies and volunteer labor.

In 2009, at Coconut Creek’s Monarch High School, an English teacher and the school’s environment and geometry clubs built a butterfly garden for $390.

To get the big money, it helps to have connections. Rogers has no formal training in entomology, but he does chair the Florida Commission on Ethics. More importantly,

Rogers had long business ties to school district leaders, including the construction chief, Michael Garretson. Garretson, who is now deceased, awarded some district work to Rogers’ company, including four no-bid jobs worth $25,000 each from 2004 to 2008.

Green mania has helped him too:

In addition, in 2007, Rogers answered a call from the district for proposals from landscape consultants. The effort was part of the district’s “Go Green” initiative, championed by now retired School Board member Bob Parks, to plant native trees and plants on school grounds and promote water conservation.

Once built, the butterfly gardens go quickly to seed.

For Cooper City High School, Rogers submitted two invoices, each for $3,350. The district paid them both. “We went back twice,” Rogers recalled. “District maintenance slaughtered what we had done.”

Others fill up with trash, or dry out because they aren’t watered. But the important thing is the noble environmentalist gesture of building these little shrines to Gaia. That, and raking in as much taxpayer money as possible before bankruptcy closes the spigot.

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Getting put in touch with nature doesn’t come cheap.

On an anonymous tip. Cross-posted at Moonbattery.

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