Florida Nears Approving Record-High Education Budget


The Florida School Boards Association is making a push to state lawmakers to approve Governor Rick Scott’s education funding suggestions as the state waits for an education budget to pass.

The Legislature is expected to reconvene on June 1 to discuss the budget for the state, while a plan for additional funding for the public school system is already in place. The FSBA recently voted to support record-high school funding.

The proposed budget for the public school system in the state for 2015-16 is $19.75 billion, the highest it has ever been. This year would see an additional $843 million for K-12 public schools, reports Jeffrey Solochek for The Tampa Bay Times.

Scott’s proposal would also include funding for additional aspects of state education, including Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship program, which would be able to use the additional funding for credit hours taken over the summer, writes Allison Nielson for The Sunshine State News.

An additional $5 million would be put toward the expansion of STEM programs on state college campuses, which would cost $10,000 or less for students.

According to Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, the state’s per-pupil funding must be increased in order to incorporate Scott’s proposal.  As it stands, his proposal would increase per-pupil spending by about $50 to $7,200 per student for the 2015-16 school year.

“I know that our districts are good stewards of our taxpayer dollars and will be able to make meaningful use of these additional funds to improve student outcomes,” she said Tuesday. “Everything is set in place for this Legislature to do the right thing by education in the state of Florida and really invest in the economic development of our state through the educational system.”

Allocating such funds would also help school districts to determine how much funding they will get next year, as many are still unclear on funding availability with no budget yet approved.

Scott warned that if the House and the Senate do not reach an agreement on the budget, his proposal may not be approved.  In a letter sent to state agency heads, Scott suggested preparations be made for the least amount of spending possible, and to list only what is truly needed in case an agreement cannot be made prior to July 1.  The two sides cannot agree on federal health care funding for the poor.

Board member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey said the state has made great gains academically, even appearing in the top 10 in national rankings, in spite of low education funding.  She added that due to the “lean” financial situation the school system is currently facing, the additional money the board is asking for is necessary.

“We need this money, and we need the Legislature to move on it,” added board member John Colon.