Gov. Ron DeSantis submitted his $21.7 billion fiscal year 2020 budget request for the state’s K-12 education programs in February.
On Tuesday, the Senate rolled out a $22.2 billion fiscal year 2020 education plan. The House followed through on Wednesday with its own $21.6 billion education budget proposal.
The Legislature has until May 3 – the last day of 2019 regular legislative session – to cobble the three together into one adopted comprehensive education budget bill that DeSantis will sign.
House PreK-12 Appropriations Education Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, introduced his $21.6 billion education proposal Wednesday, which calls for $600,000 less in spending than the Senate plan previewed Tuesday.
More than $500,000 of that difference is that Latvala’s plan includes about half the increase in Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) spending the Senate is requesting.
The House’s plan does not include the $14 million in recovery money the Senate allocates for schools hammered by Hurricane Michael and imposes a new metric – regional wages – to the school-funding formula’s price-level index that the Senate has not adopted.
The House budget proposal seeks to increase per-student FEFP spending in the preK-12 system by 2.75 percent, $579.3 million, next year. The hike would translate into about $167 more for each student.
The Senate FEFP plan, outlined by Senate Education Appropriations Chair Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, would increase per-student funding by 4.71 percent, $1.1 billion. The boost would translate into about $350 more per student.
“I think what you’re seeing with this Senate is that we do value education – all education, including public education,” Stargel told the appropriations committee Tuesday. “We put the money there to help support that.”
This year’s $21.1 billion FEFP allocation – including $9.1 billion, or 43 percent, from local district taxpayers – breaks down to $7,429 for each of the state’s 2.8 million Full Time Enrolled (FTE) students.
DeSantis has called for a $224 per-student increase in the FEFP to $7,653 each. The Senate plan would raise it $350 to $7,779. The House budget request debuted Wednesday by Latvala would boost the FEFP by $167 to $7,596 for each FTE student.
The House’s education budget request incorporates the findings from a $100,000 Legislature-financed study that determined the “unique to Florida” index used as FEFP’s funding formula does not adequately “equalize funding” among the state’s school districts, which feature vast variations in population, geography and economic standards.
In a January presentation, the Bamoral Group recommended changes to a pricing index weighted by a complex menu of “calculators” unchanged since 2003. Among revisions is a regional wage calculator that can more accurately gauge economic impacts.
The House plan introduced by Latvala Wednesday features the first attempt to introduce those new factors to the funding formula’s pricing indexes.
All three plans call for revamping the “Best and Brightest” teacher-bonus program, including eliminating reliance on SAT and ACT college-entrance exams in determining bonus eligibility.
Both chambers’ plans allocate the $234 million for teacher bonuses earmarked by DeSantis in his budget request, but neither proposal calls for an across-the-board teacher raise, which education professionals point to as a deficiency in recruiting teachers to the state.
The House’s proposed program would make “Best and Brightest” bonuses of $2,000 for each classroom teacher rated “highly effective” and up to $1,100 for each teacher rated “effective.”
“In a perfect world, we would be able to give teachers raises. It’s something that I absolutely would love to do,” Latvala said during Wednesday’s House PreK-12 Appropriations Education Subcommittee, noting up to 93 percent of Florida’s teachers are at least rated “effective.”
The Senate carves out $233 million for bonuses for teachers and principals based on the academic improvement of schools and $600 million in “flexible funds” that local school districts can use for teacher raises or other needs.
The Senate’s education funding request would also provide $68 million to help Florida schools hire at least one safety officer for each school, $50 million in “school hardening grants” to help districts and charter schools increase security and $2 million for Jewish day school security.
Other components of the Senate education budget include $46 million to assist struggling schools, $31 million to address youth mental health issues, and $14.2 million to help Panhandle schools that have lost enrollment because of Hurricane Michael.
Latvala dismissed concerns about the differences between the governor’s education budget request and those introduced by the Senate and the House.
“This is the just the starting point,” he said. "As you know, we are going to be conferencing with our Senate partners who have a different budget and philosophy than we do, so a lot of things can change.”