Hey Florida, One More Year Of Leaving Poor Students Behind?

Here we go again.

We’ve been keeping an eye on the educational budget building process in FL for the last few months. Last week we wrote an update on the state budget for education. It proposed a $24 increase to per student funding, also called the Base Student Allocation. Most education advocates were underwhelmed, but ready to move forward.

Then yesterday, May 7th, the Superintendent of Broward Schools Robert Runcie released a rare and impassioned editorial in the Sun Sentinel. He revealed that the legislature’s proposed budget set for final vote today, May 8th, will mean a $27 cut to Broward Base Student Allocation.

Here’s basically what has happened.Though there are more dollars available in the state budget pot overall due to a strengthening economy, the Florida legislature took a look at how they were chunking that money into buckets and decided to rework it. Lots of money has been earmarked, therefore restricted, for specific purposes in what appears to be a house and senate’s effort to have the dollars go directly where they want it spent in education, including new charter schools in low performing areas.

What does this mean for Broward?

In Broward, it will mean a $6 million cut to the per student budget. This may not sound like a big blow in a $3.5 billion budget, but when one considers the fact that our per student allocation is already at about 65% of the national average…it hurts. We will feel it most in areas like teacher salaries, which is embarrassingly low compared to other states.

This was not aligned with Governor Rick Scott’s proposed route which requested a $141 increase to per student spending.

Florida is missing TODAY’S kids.

It’s a pretty clear message that the legislature is not a fan of traditional public education.

Why would I say such a thing? Isn’t everyone trying to do what’s best for kids? Yes, I truly believe everyone’s intentions are honorable. However, great intentions don’t always make a great plan. We’ve gotten it wrong a bunch of times in history.

Legislators have a big job when it comes to education. They must find and fund solutions to improve the destiny of entire communities locked in generation after generation of poverty. And, breaking that cycle of poverty relies heavily on education. This budget makes no new provisions for the current needs in traditional public education, only for the intended future.

Education reform starts from where we are now

Everyone believes in education reform in some fashion, even the superintendent. “What we are doing now was good for the 20th century, but it’s not going to get us where we need to be for the 21st century. And, I’m not the only one saying that. Talk to the students! They think we are ‘old school’,” Robert Runcie stated in a recent conversation.

But, we can not fund the future while ignoring the conditions of the present. The fact is more than 95% of Broward students attend traditional public schools…today.

So today…this morning …when you rise out of bed, there are poor kids destined for unforgivable outcomes. They can’t wait until a new school is built or a new program is implemented.

The funding priorities do not address these kids.

Florida schools are currently underfunded. This is not an opinion; it’s a fact. This budget should respond to the present AND the future. We must fund both! And if the legislature’s proposed budget goes through today, we miss the boat for another year.

What do you think?


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