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State Education Board’s “Historic” Funding Proposal Is Still $1,000 Per Student Below 2006 Level

| August 26, 2015

per student funding

Exasperated by the politics behind the math. (Geoff Livingston)

The State Board of Education decided Wednesday to once again ask lawmakers for record per-student funding for public schools — with the lion’s share of the increase coming from local taxpayers.

Board members unanimously approved a budget request of nearly $20.2 billion for the main funding formula for public elementary and secondary schools in the fiscal year that begins next July 1. That would set a new benchmark for total funding, up from this year’s $19.7 billion, as well as marking the highest per-student amount in state history–but only in nominal, not inflation-adjusted, dollars.

“Last year, you’ll remember that Gov. Scott and the Legislature provided historic levels of funding for education, and we are hopeful that for the (coming) year, the governor and the Legislature will make education a top priority once again by providing historic funding levels,” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart told the board.

In a June special legislative session, lawmakers rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s call to increase per-student funding in the current budget year to more than the high-water mark of $7,126, which came in the 2007-08 school year. This year’s decision, made as the House and Senate tried to plug a hole in the health-care budget, deprived Scott of a victory on a campaign promise he had made during his successful re-election bid in 2014.

The proposal approved Wednesday by the board would boost spending to $7,209.39 per student, an increase of $104.33, or 1.47 percent, over the current year.

In inflation-adjusted dollars, the $7,209 figure is still well below the level of the 2007-08 school year, when spending was the equivalent of $8,201 in current dollars–$1,000 per student more than the state school board’s proposal, and $1,100 more than the current allocation.

Further complicating matters, only $50 million of the $475.9 million hike in funding the state board is proposing would come from the state. The other $425.9 million would come from local property taxes that make up a key part of the formula for education spending. That approach has drawn criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, who equate it to a tax increase.

Defenders of the formula point out that the local tax dollars go up because the value of property is rising, not because the actual tax rate is being increased.

The board’s proposal still has several stages to go through before a final number on per-student spending is set. Scott is expected to announce his budget proposal in December, and lawmakers will begin their regular session in January. A final state spending plan will likely be approved in March.

At least one board member held out the possibility that the increase could grow by the time lawmakers are done.

“I hope that percentage increases,” said board member Michael Olenick.

Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who chairs the Senate’s education budget subcommittee, said it is too early to tell whether it’s likely that the Legislature will approve a record amount.

“I hope it is (likely),” he said.

But Gaetz, a former district superintendent, also said he believes “Tallahassee politicians and school board members need to be careful about patting themselves on the back” for funding increases that largely come from local taxpayers.

At their Wednesday meeting, the state board also approved a list of legislative priorities for the 2016 session. Included were measures that would make it easier for high-performing charter schools to open new campuses, allow students in low-performing schools to receive enrollment preferences at charter schools and overhaul the Department of Education’s process for investigating teachers accused of misconduct.

Among other things, the latter bill would put more teachers on the board that investigates alleged wrongdoing and would allow the education agency to get access to the findings of child-protective investigations by the Department of Children and Families.

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida, and FlaglerLive

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4 Responses for “State Education Board’s “Historic” Funding Proposal Is Still $1,000 Per Student Below 2006 Level”

  1. Samuel L. Bronkowitz says:

    An ignorant population is easy to control. Republicans cut education and bust educational unions and implement common core standards, dumbasses that support them cheer, and the dumbass to non-dumbass ratio continues to get worse. Democrats kick the funding up and enact touchy-feely legislation so that the little darlings don’t get their feeling hurt but the infrastructure just sucks up the additional money without letting it filter down to where it needs to go and you end up with a bunch of dumbasses again. I don’t know what the solution is other than to raze the current system to the ground, get rid of the cruft, and actually enact fact-based education much like medicine is doing fact-based medicine now.

  2. Theresa Craig says:

    Does anyone care about our children? I discovered this morning that the school bus which transports my six year old child has no air conditioning and the windows were all shut. I contacted the Director of Transportation to find out why these poor conditions are allowed in our county?! I was told that half of the buses are not air conditioned, and that it costs 100,000.00 dollars to purchase an air conditioned bus. I was also told that there is no way air conditioning can be added to a bus. I asked Ms. Winnie Oden how she would like to be on a hot bus for 45 minutes without air, she said, “…. that she wouldn’t”. Why are we spending money on Charter schools such as Phoenix academy(that no one wants to attend) instead of giving our children a humane environment on the bus? Surely, these conditions must have an effect upon our children’s ability to learn. I remember when my air conditioning broke in my car, the sweltering heat was unbearable. I felt lethargic and miserable, and that was with the windows down and the car moving.
    I also found out by another mother that once the bus arrives at school the children who do not eat breakfast have to sit on the bus for another 10 minutes before they can enter the classroom! Does anyone care? What can we do as parents to help our children for go these inhumane conditions?

  3. just me says:

    The kids should not be forced to follow the $$$ the $$$ should follow the kid School choice is the answer to much of the educational issues.

  4. Sherry E says:

    Public School Choice. . . maybe. But we should NOT be using tax payers dollars to fund “Private” schools of any kind!

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