Florida Education Funding: Holding the Purse Strings

taxes-646512_1280Does Florida short change its students?  Where does the education funding come from and where does it go?  Answers to such questions require some ‘tax literacy’.  Florida is one of seven states with no income tax.  As a percentage of personal income, Florida has the fourth lowest tax rate in the country.  Corporate taxes currently are 2.9% of Florida’s revenue.  Yet, Florida is not a poor state; some areas are quite wealthy.
Now there is a legislative proposal to eliminate property taxes.  What are the implications of such an idea?  Clearly, sales taxes would have to go up.  The question prompted me to put together Florida’s funding stream for education.  I asked some questions:
  • How much of its budget does Florida allocate for education?
  • How does Florida’s education funding compare to other states?
  • How much of the education budget is funded from states sales tax, the lottery, local property taxes and the federal government?
  • How much is diverted from the education budget by corporate tax rebates for private school scholarships?
  • How much money is diverted from school districts to charter schools?
The answers to these questions explain a lot.  We can understand the power of the federal purse when we oppose federal mandates on testing and accountability programs.  We can understand public school districts’ concerns about the attempts to privatize the educational system.  We can evaluate the impact of proposals to reduce taxes.  Most of all, we can examine our state’s priorities.

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Making Your Voices Heard

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There are many ways to be heard.  Responding to the DOE webinar and survey is one.  Writing your legislators both at the state and national levels is another.  Showing up  at school board meetings can help.  In the end, we will also need the courts.

There is a lawsuit:  Citizens for Strong Schools that comes to trial in March.  The suit supports public schools based on Florida’s constitutional requirement for a unified, strong, efficient, high quality system.  Note the word ‘unified’.  The school reform movement advocates privatizing our schools by creating charters and tax credit scholarships to private schools.

Testing is the accountability strategy for school reform.

Southern Legal Counsel is the firm that has filed the Citizen’s for Strong Schools lawsuit.  They are operating pro bono.  If you can help them raise money to cover expenses, then go to their website.  You can donate there.  Just click the DONATE button.  Any amount can help.

 

Testing, When is Enough, Enough?

dmbtestI wrote this piece as a lead in to the testing forum sponsored by the Gainesville Sun on September 16th.  The issues are there.  So are some ways to think a little differently about current tests and testing alternatives.  The article was published today.  It starts like this:  “Florida has been using tests to drive instruction for years”.  It ends with putting Florida’s legislature to the test.   In between are  some ways to think about improving our schools.  See the article here.

Nathan Crabbe, the Gainesville Sun’s editor, announced a forum on testing to be held on September 16th at 6 p.m. in Pugh Hall on the University of Florida  campus.  He will moderate a panel that includes Superintendent Owen Roberts, Sue Legg (President Alachua County League of Women Voters, Susan Bowles (Teacher of the Year), and Shan Goff, Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Past State Board of Education Chair Says It is all about Money!

race-653241_1280Tax credit vouchers are supposed to give poor children an option out of a failing school.  Gary Chartrand, former Chair, Florida State Board of Education, tells it like it really is.

Chartrand makes a case that getting children from poor families out of public schools saves the rest of us money.  There may be another not so hidden agenda that Chartrand forgets to mention.

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Florida LWV Legislative Priorities Due

legislation1The Florida LWV legislative priorities are coming due.  Please make your voices heard within your local leagues.  In order to be able to advocate for our Education Team issues, we have to make it into the top priorities statewide.

Make education tops for your local league.  Here is a list of topics we expect to come up in the legislative session.  Remember that committee meetings start in September.

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ALEC Admits Vouchers are for Suburbia

housesVouchers for private school tuition were supposed to be for at risk children in poor neighborhoods.  In Florida, that assumption was dropped when the legislature expanded eligibility for tax credit scholarships to include family incomes up to $62,000.  Now, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is more concerned about the high cost of tuition for middle class families.  They want to help.

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Jeb Bush’s Foundation Grades Legislators on Education Reform Policy

FAILED1Education Now reports that the Foundation for Florida’s Future has released its grades for legislators.  They are based on their support for  the Bush/ALEC school privatization agenda.

As you know, Jeb Bush made his mark in Florida with his advocacy for charter schools and vouchers.  When the State Supreme Court declared vouchers unconstitutional, they were turned into corporate tax rebate scholarships.  The Southern Legal Counsel’s lawsuit against school choice Citizens for Strong Schools comes to trial next spring.

Privatizing schools has turned into big business in Florida.  To protect the business interests, legislators are pressured and cajoled.  In this report you can see the grades your individual representatives and senators have received from the foundation Jeb Bush created.  High grades mean that those legislators are failing our public schools and promoting privatization.  Here’s the link to the report.

 

 

 

 

Is Public Education Dead in Nevada?

death valleyRemember the Personal Learning Accounts Florida enacted last year for K12 students with disabilities?  They provide about $10,000 for private school tuition, services and other materials.  Public school students are not eligible, but home schoolers are.

Nevada has outdone Florida.  Almost everyone can receive some money.  Will public education become a waste land?

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