From Leslie Postal in the Orlando Sentinel:
Scott demanded more money for public schools this year, and the Legislature agreed. But the increase lawmakers approved won’t lead to bigger budgets for local districts this year.
Per-student funding will go up an average of $150. But last year, lawmakers slashed an average of $585 for each student. Making matters worse, thousands of new students are expected to enroll during the next school year, adding to districts’ costs. And the federal stimulus money that helped shore up school districts this school year will run out, leaving a budget gap.
Bottom line: Local school boards likely will need to make cuts for the coming school year.
The Seminole County school district, for example, estimates that about $16 million must be sliced to balance its 2012-13 spending plan. That could mean reducing teaching staffs and trimming janitorial services, among other actions. Orange County schools could be short $25 million, on a per-student basis.
“At the end of the day, we still have less money available per student for next year than we have right now,” said Rick Collins, chief financial officer for Orange County schools. “That’s the reality of it.”
As they did last year, lawmakers also budgeted no money for traditional schools’ construction projects and again allocated $55 million from that fund to the state’s charter schools.
The legislature has applied the leverage it wants in getting more charter schools. Local school boards feel obliged to open them even they don’t want, need or can afford them. Florida Charter schools leading lobbyist, Cheri Shannon said last month that “districts need to follow the law,” in a remarkable effort to intimidate school boards. Despite defeat of two key charter school friendly bills, $55 million for them and none for public schools exemplifies bias of a level that hard to legitimize.