Where We’ve Been
Legislative policies of the past have led to the under-funding of public education and children’s services and have virtually guaranteed an unstable and unreliable funding stream. Despite current economic factors, there are actions our legislature can take to mitigate losses. These strategies require leadership. They include closing existing tax loopholes and comprehensive tax restructuring.
The Florida Legislature is the fiscal school board for the state. The Revenue Estimating Conference determines the state’s anticipated income. Lawmakers use the estimated figure to balance the state budget as required by law.
Voters overwhelmingly approve the Class Size Amendment to the state constitution limiting the number of children per classroom
The state funded education with 61% of the state’s general revenue. Local property owners paid 39% through taxes
This was our high water mark pertaining to education funding in Florida. Per pupil funding was $7,400. (The national average was $9,138.)
Per pupil funding from the state was $7,300. This amount was reduced to $7,000 during a special session and was reduced to $6,844 later that year.
Voters passed Amendment I, which decreased property tax revenues. Projected cuts equal $9.3 billion over five years, representing a $1.5 billion reduction of funds for education. (Source: St. Pete Times)
Figures released by the Revenue Estimating Conference reflect a sharp decline in property taxes and an unexpected reduction in sales tax reducing per pupil spending to a shocking $6,400. The national average is over $10,000 per pupil.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is passed by the U.S. Congress. States are given non-recurring money to help balance their budgets.
Florida does not qualify for the $2.5 billion in education budget relief because per pupil funding in the state has dipped well-below 2006 levels. Reluctantly, Governor Crist applies for the required waiver and Florida gets in line to receive its portion of the bail-out money.
Following a contentious regular session, the Florida Legislature (represented by a majority party in both houses and in the Governor’s office) extended the regular session, costing taxpayers and additional $250,000. Legislators use Stimulus money, revenue from increased fees and money from the Seminole Indian Gaming Compact to balance and pass the state budget.
2009-2010 School Year
Per pupil spending stands at $6,873, but costs previously not included, like transportation, have to be paid from that amount resulting in a net loss to students and education.
The Florida Legislature, taking advantage of the economic downturn, continues to shift the burden of taxation to local counties, forcing them to make the one-time choice to levy an extra .25 in taxes without permission or vote from property owners. Many school boards reject the additional .25 tax option- refusing to give the legislature a pass on its constitutional obligation to fund education and citing this latest move as just another ploy to shift the burden of taxation to the local level.
2009-2010 Fiscal Year
State funds 51% of education- a 10% drop since 2005. Property owners fund 49%. 2010 projections continue to shift the burden of education funding to property tax payers.
2009: Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
In 2009 Florida lawmakers enacted legislation (H.B. 991) at the urging of Education Commissioner Dr. Eric Smith, aligning our state’s school grading system with the No Child Left Behind Act (Federal law) four years ahead of schedule. Using complex formulas, schools are now evaluated on both their FCAT scores and the strict pass/fail structure of AYP. How it works:
To achieve AYP, schools must meet proficiency benchmarks in 39 separate criteria. If a school fails to meet just one of these criteria, it does not make AYP.
39 AYP Criteria:
Include categories such as learning disabilities, low-readers, Exceptional Education students, free/reduced lunch recipients and African-American and Hispanic males and females. Students who fail to make AYP and fall into a number of number of categories will count numerous times against the overall school evaluation.
Failing to make AYP:
During a 4-year span, all schools who fail to meet AYP, including those with an A+ on the FCAT, will face sanctions ranging from economic to a complete “reconstitution” or breakdown the school that involves firing principals, and staff and relocating students around the county.
The requirement of all schools to immediately bring failing sub-groups up to AYP proficiencies is completely un-funded. There is no money to support the requirement that our schools develop special approaches, add staff, curricula or other means to increase these students’ performance.
Where We Are
2010: Class Size Amendment
In 2002, Florida voters overwhelmingly chose to amend the state constitution to limit the number of children taught in a single classroom. Although there has been a phased transition, 100% compliance takes place during the 2010-2011 school year. This is an enormous un-funded mandate, expected to cost millions in new teacher hires.
2011: The Funding Cliff
Federal Stimulus money ran out in 2011. The Florida Legislature did not close corporate loopholes or address comprehensive tax reform to pay for our state’s bills. Public education experienced massive cuts.
Where We’re Headed
2013: No Child Left Behind Act
Requires every public school to ensure that all children meet 100% AYP proficiencies in reading and math. NCLB forces schools to strictly ration education money in order to guarantee mandated skill levels in reading, writing, and arithmetic to all students. This directive sacrifices and potentially guts all programs that are deemed non-essential, like art, music, and gifted programs. The Obama administration and Congress will consider the reauthorization of this bill in 2011.