Once again, the Florida Legislature has failed to pass a budget in 60 days due in no small part to their “win at any cost” high-stakes Game of Thrones process. Now it appears that the session will be extended to accommodate the required 72 hour cooling off period prior to the final Budget vote.
Legislators make great sport out of questioning the integrity of public schools, students, teachers and districts to justify setting up the most punitive “Accountability” system in the nation. Speaker Corcoran’s stern lecture to House members about his commitment to accountability and transparency stands in sharp contrast to the way he and Senate President Negron negotiated the entire budget shrouded in in secrecy. There’s no polite way to say it, lying and deception have become essential Tallahassee tools.
Budgets that are traded behind closed doors reflect the callous process of picking winners and losers. Sadly, Florida’s 2.8 million public school children have been tagged as losers once again.
Florida politicians sent a clear message to Florida’s public school children by failing to invest in them again. The proposed 0.34% increase puts Public Education funding at its lowest point since the Great Recession. To put this in perspective, look at the Base Student Allocation – the number needed to keep the lights on and teachers in classrooms. In 2007 each student got $4,163.47 and the 2017 proposal offers $4,133.64. That’s $29.83 less.
Politicians under sway of the pro-privatization lobby placed $200 million dollars in the budget to fund charter growth while clearly intending to starve district schools. “Schools of Hope/High Impact Charters” use politics to pit 4,000 public schools and the needs of their students against the needs of 115 public schools and their kids. They set aside another $214 million for the discriminatory Best and Brightest bonus in lieu of paying teachers as professionals. It doesn’t have to be this way. Florida has the money. Legislators are choosing to give it away as corporate welfare in exchange for special consideration such as campaign donations.
The Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS) released a statement saying that as a group they are “gravely concerned about the proposed Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) funding. The currently proposed funding levels are not sufficient to meet the basic funding needs of Florida’s 2.8 million public school students and result in a negative budget for many Florida school districts.”
Read these disturbing facts from FADSS about the proposed Budget:
- 2017-2018 Conference Agreement that includes the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) only includes a $24.49 or .34% increase in total student funding and a negative $27.07 or -0.65% decrease in the Base Student Allocation.
- The proposed increase in total revenue for this next year is about $241.4 million, and is almost completely consumed meeting the needs of 24,000 new students.
- The reported increase in average dollars per student is about $24.49 or about $69.14 million statewide beyond funding student enrollment growth. However many districts will experience funding cuts in per pupil funding.
- The proposed rate increase for the Florida Retirement System are projected to consume about $54 million of the $69 million, leaving about $5.32 per student for districts to address all other increased health care, utility, fuel and other operational costs.
- When compared to the funding provided in the budget 10 years ago, the essential core of the operating budget remains below pre-recession levels.
- There are about 200,000 more students projected in 2017/18 than were funded in the 2007/08 budget.
- The Exceptional Student Education allocation that serves over 540,000 students with disabilities is nearly $50 million less than 10 years ago.
- The Transportation allocation is about $45 million less than 10 years ago.
- The Instructional Materials allocation is $36 million less for our students than 10 years ago.
Start calling, writing and tweeting your legislators. Ask them to reflect on why they are voting to cut public education while granting corporate welfare cash to charter chains. The 2017 session will go down in history as a blatant effort to fully fund school privatization while turning a cold shoulder on Florida’s three million public school children.
Asking for Governor Scott’s veto is our next step.
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