The narrative that Florida republican legislators and Governor Rick Scott advanced at the end of the legislative session was that public schools were somehow the big winners. Public school officials are collectively rolling their eyes. Preening politicians live in a separate universe than do the educators who make our schools work and run on time.
The St. Augustine Record explains:
St. Johns County educators aren’t giving the 2014 Florida legislative session top marks.
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 ….”
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
So how did Florida republican leadership decide make up the difference schools lost in tax cuts to for corporations and pay for their voucher expansion priority? They mandated that districts have to come up with the extra funds on their own by mandating that an increase in homeowner property tax rates. Daytona Beach News-Journal:
With $574 million more in education spending and $500 million in tax cuts, the newly proposed state budget sounds like a win for taxpayers and schools.
But property owners might not be singing its praises when they get word of their new tax bills — because that same budget also means they’ll be paying about $400 million more than they did last year to support local schools.
The budget anticipates property owners across the state paying about 5 percent more in school property taxes because of climbing property values. That move is sure to be unpopular with some property owners, but school officials say it’s not their fault.
“I don’t think anyone wants to see a tax bill that’s higher — I don’t think anyone does somersaults,” said Robert Moll, Volusia’s deputy superintendent for financial and business services. “You have to take it in perspective, and say this is for a good cause.”
Property owners need to know their local school boards aren’t to blame for the tax increase, said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. For most people, he said, the difference between this year’s and last year’s bill should be modest.
“(Lawmakers) had the opportunity to put in more state revenue — they chose not to do that,” Blanton said.
So where do those “tax cuts” or that “state revenue” really come from?
Apparently Scott has declared that it’s from three sales tax holidays and a cut in automobile registration fees.
So an accounting sleight of hand enabled Scott and legislative republicans tell everyone that they got a tax cut and gave more money to public schools; but they failed to tell anyone about their increase in the homeowner taxes which they worded in a manner which blames local school boards.
Meanwhile, republican’s corporate bank rollers and their Florida Chamber of Commerce enforcers continue to bear no burden in maintaining our public schools. While they scream for accountability and Common Core for public schools they get tax credits for sponsoring voucher schools which have neither.