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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Duval County Schools have 50 million dollars in unfunded mandates

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

The editors of Florida Times-Union site a report by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF).

Much of the blame for funding difficulties must be placed at the state level.

The state of Florida has reduced its share of school funding, placed new unfunded mandates on the school districts and then micromanages how the reduced funds must be spent.

For instance, JPEF notes that the school district will have to spend $50 million to be in compliance with the state’s unfunded mandates.

The nonprofit referred to a study of six states that were inadequately funding education. Those six states, though underfunded, still were spending more than Florida.

That has quite a “wow” factor, doesn’t it? The Times-Union editors don’t hold back either:

Though a relative skinflint, the Florida Legislature acts as a super school board, turning “home rule” on its head. As Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals has said, if the state would give school districts more flexibility in using funds, then many of the cuts would not be so drastic. But specific requests must be made each year to the Legislature.

As for Lottery funding, it’s a perfect example of the Legislature’s irresponsibility. Much of the Lottery funds go to college scholarships. Of the decreasing proportion left for school districts, almost all of it is specified.

According to JPEF, over the past 10 years, the percentage of state lottery funding going to support K-12 schools has gone down from 60 percent in 2001 to 44 percent in 2011.”

There’s your answer for folks who ask you about where the lottery money went. No wonder Rick Scott wants more lottery tickets sold. But does that $50 Million cover all the unfunded mandates? Revelations last weekend that state republicans never intended to fund merit pay will certainly add to the cost that local districts like Duval will be burdened with.

The editors of the Times-Union are onto something with their characterization that the legislature is acting as a super school board. The next time you hear a republican legislator speak benevolently about allowing school districts more flexibility, know they’re talking about all those unfunded mandates.

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