The proposed state budget provides an increase of $24.49 or 0.34 percent per student statewide, but most of that money comes to districts with instructions on how to spend it. More important, for the first time in a nonrecession year, the amount of unrestricted money appropriated for each student in Florida is being cut — by $27.07, while districts face millions of dollars of cost increases associated with healthcare, technology, utilities, and retirement.
If the level of funding weren’t bad enough, the conforming bill traveling with the budget moves money to charter schools for capital expenses, making a bad situation worse. This policy means that taxpayers’ money will be used to build and maintain classrooms that don’t belong to the taxpayers. Financial advisers are concerned because this proposal would result in a material decrease in revenue streams and increased volatility from year to year because of potential changes in charter school populations.
Additionally, changes related to Title I funds will limit the School Board’s ability to target funding for research-based initiatives and targeted programs such as an eight-period day, summer school, additional support staff such as reading, math, and science coaches, and targeted professional development for teachers. These efforts being implemented in fragile schools are resulting in significantly fewer “F” schools. This change jeopardizes the district’s continued success of turnaround efforts in Miami-Dade schools.
It’s time for state leaders to take another look, find resources within this booming state, and adjust their priorities to provide for our children.
Alberto Carvalho, superintendent, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami