The Florida Board of Education has voted to seek a budget increase of 4.4% for next year, in part to implement a plan that would significantly narrow the achievement gap between minority students and their white peers, The Miami Herald reports. Although the state Legislature increased the state education budget last year by more than $1 billion, according to the BOE, the number wasn't high enough to offset reductions imposed by the state in years prior.
Lawmakers have estimated that state revenues will go up by 4.4% next year, and the Board believes that the increase in education funding should be commensurate with that bump. Nearly 15% of the increase will be dedicated to keeping up with growing enrollment. More than $63 million will go towards capital improvements for new and existing charter schools, and just as much will match private donations for the state's colleges and universities.
The Board hopes to use some of additional money towards technology improvements throughout the K-12 and the higher education system.
Board member John Padget questioned why the achievement goals for all children, regardless of racial or ethnic background, shouldn't be the same.
Board member Roberto "Bobby" Martinez said that would be "a heck of a statement" but noted that black and Hispanic children "are starting at a different place."
"We have to be realistic," added board member Kathleen Shanahan.
The plan which was approved by the board at last week's meeting, held in Orlando, sets out several achievement goals for Black and Hispanic students, including raising the percentage of African-Americans reading at grade level from 38% to 74% and those testing in mathematics at grade level from 40% to 74% in the next five years. The goal for Hispanic students is to have 81% of them reading at grade level and 80% performing at grade level in math over the same period of time.
The board also adopted a resolution to add financial education requirement for high school graduation.
Board members also expressed support for a legislative proposal suggested by Martinez to end state approval of textbooks and other teaching materials. He said that would let principals and teachers be more innovative and keep up with rapid changes in digital learning materials.
The panel delayed a decision on whether to appeal a judge's ruling that would require in-state tuition rates for U.S.-born Florida residents who are dependent children of illegal immigrants.