UPDATE: Scathing Purple Musings initially misquoted Superintendent Joe Joyner as indicating Florida was 50th in per pupil spending when he actually indicated that it was per capita spending which Florida trails.
Looks like all that back-slapping by republican legislators and happy talk about public schools being a “big winner” was poppycock. St. Augustine Record reporter Marcia Lane explains:
When Superintendent Joe Joyner saw a headline saying schools emerged as the “big winner” during the session, he called Beth Sweeny, the district’s coordinator of governmental relations, since that didn’t jibe with his understanding. It didn’t jibe with her understanding or reality either, he said.
When he told the story at a recent community event Joyner laughed, but he was dead serious about the district’s concerns over funding and the effects of several new bills. So was Sweeny.
“We received a 2.6 percent increase (from new revenue). We were expecting 3.1 percent,” Sweeny explained to the group of parents and community leaders. “We’re thankful for the money we were given, but given the state of recovery ….”
That state of recovery includes rising property values. When the financial crisis first struck during 2007-08, Florida took a particular hard hit in part because of the strong role the housing market plays in the state’s economy. Homeowners and businesses paying property tax saw their values drop.
That in turn meant millage generated less money. School districts were among those forced to cut deeply.
Property taxes make up part of the funding for the Florida Education Finance Program, known as FEFP, which provides the funds for both district-operated and charter-operated K-12 schools. In order to receive state dollars, school districts must levy millage at the level required by the state.
Funding education is part of the constitutional duty of the Legislature. However, local revenue provided a lion’s share of new FEFP funds this year.
For the 2014-15 FEFP budget, total new school funds were about $574.8 million. Some $400 million came from new local revenue. About $87.8 million came from new state general revenue. Other new state dollars came from increases from the Florida Lottery and the Principal State School Trust Fund.
Education wasn’t the only area to see funding growth.
At the start of the session, state officials announced they expected $1.5 billion in new revenue. Half-a-billion in tax cuts insisted upon by state legislators and Gov. Rick Scott took a third of the money out of play. Originally, both the Senate and House budgets gave districts more money.
After the two legislative bodies conferred, the 2.6 percent allocation they agreed on was lower than what either had initially offered.
“Normally it lands between what the House and the Senate offer. We lost $100 million,” Sweeny said.
Joyner said while the state’s school districts will get new money, Florida remains 50th of 50 states in per capita funding for K-12 public education.
Tha narrative that voucher expansion has no affect on public schools is collapsing. Not when you give tax cuts to corporations then give that corporation a tax credit on the liability they have left to pay for a legislator’s favored program.
So is the lie that republican legislators favor local control. Not when they dictate that more revenue must come from local sources while you continue to pass unfunded mandates onto local school boards.
Is anyone really surprised that this republican legislature and this governor has allowed Florida to be last in the nation again in public school funding?