Total Pageviews

State Board of Education wants to go from horrendous to just terrible

From the Associated Press

By BILL KACZOR

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The State Board of Education asked Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature on Tuesday for a modest 1.88 percent boost in spending for each student in Florida's public schools next year but opted to seek a more dramatic 24.4 percent overall increase for community and state colleges.

The panel, though, refused to ask Scott and lawmakers to restore state funding for Florida's 26 public television and radio stations. The Republican governor vetoed $4.8 million for public broadcasters from this year's budget, which went into effect July 1.

Florida School Boards Association executive director Wayne Blanton said the proposed $117.54 per student increase is "realistic" while a teachers union spokesman called it "a tepid response" after lawmakers cut spending by $542 for each student, or 8 percent, in this year's budget.

"Under the current economic conditions that is an acceptable and a wise budget request," Blanton said.

The Florida Education Association's Mark Pudlow, though, said the request would keep the state's school funding near the bottom nationally.

"It's nowhere what we need," Pudlow said. "It's kind of sad when you have to aspire to be average."

The state board's proposal, approved during a conference call meeting, would bring kindergarten through 12th grade spending to $6,372.65 per student. That's about $900 less than it was in 2007-08, or a 13 percent drop.

Lawmakers took the edge off of this year's cuts by, in effect, reducing the salaries of teachers and other school employees. They, along with state and county workers and some city employees, are being required to contribute 3 percent of their pay to the Florida Retirement System while employers' contributions have been reduced.

Most Florida school districts also saved their shares of $550 million in federal jobs money they received last year and are using it to offset some of this year's spending cuts

Those factors and prior year layoffs are allowing most districts to avoid eliminating more teachers this year, but they won't have federal jobs money to bail them out in 2012-13, Blanton said.

He said school boards, instead, will be lobbying lawmakers to reduce or eliminate unfunded mandates - spending required by the state but paid for with local dollars.

The biggest is more than $1 billion needed to develop and implement end-of-course exams over the next two years for a revised assessment system, Blanton said. It will be used for such purposes as grading schools and awarding teacher merit pay.

Another unfunded mandate is to provide transportation for students who live two miles or more from school. The state pays only 65 percent, leaving $200 million to $400 million depending of fuel costs for local districts to pick up, Blanton said.

The board's proposed overall operating budget for the Department of Education would total $14.4 billion or 1.39 percent less than currently being spent. Those figures include colleges but not universities.

Community and state colleges would get nearly $251 million more for a total of nearly $1.28 billion. Most of that - $176.5 million - would be earmarked for the Philip Benjamin Matching Grants program, which has not been funded for the past few years.

The proposed grant appropriation would match donations the schools have received during those years the state failed to provide matching funds.

"Given the current economic situation, we are hopeful the Legislature will fund the matching grant program," Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters wrote in an email.

The proposal would still leave the colleges about $300 million short of their peak funding on a per-student basis in 2006-07.

Board member A.K. Desai, a St. Petersburg physician, urged the panel to put public broadcasting in the budget request although he acknowledged Scott likely would veto it again.

"I do understand there is a strong feeling about not supporting any funding because there is a perception of them being liberal and all that," Desai said. "At least that will keep the conversation going."

No other board member supported his proposal, but a couple said they might consider it if additional funding materializes.

Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan, a Tampa business woman who was chief of staff to former Gov. Jeb Bush, said public broadcasting is not an educational priority.

The board's proposal also includes $40 million in new money for more reading coaches and $4.2 million to begin accountability testing of children in the state's Voluntary Prekindergarten Program at a cost of $25 each to determine if they are ready for school.

The board also agreed to add $8.7 million to this year's request to implement state-approved curricula in the prekindergarten program. The state has approved 14 curricula, but the schools, mostly private, aren't currently required to use them. Staffers had proposed holding off on that spending for another year.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/08/23/2371340/fla-board-of-ed-seeks-modest-per.html#ixzz1VwEDROX3

No comments:

Post a Comment