For years now, small and medium sized mostly rural counties have received a little less per pupil funding than large counties. It adds up. Senator Hukill, Chair of the Senate Education Committee wants to fix it. See SB 1394.
Her county, Volusia, receives .9739 for every dollar allocated for public school students. Marion County receives even less, .9735. Very rural counties like Calhoun and Franklin are much lower at about .93 cents on the dollar. Across all students in the county, the funding loss can run into millions of dollars.
Large urban counties like Dade and Palm Beach receive more than a dollar per student because their cost of living estimates by the Florida Price Index are higher. The idea is that if it costs less to live in a district, the district does not need as much money as other districts.
What is the most fair way to allocate funds to districts? On could argue that it is simply difficult to find teachers willing to live in rural areas for lower salaries than they might receive in larger urban areas. It is also clear that students living in poverty need more services than do others. Maybe rents are higher in urban areas, but are salaries also higher?
On balance, Florida’s funding system is rated in the middle range of states on how money is distributed from one district to another. When other fairness measures are included e.g. the funding level and the effort relative to the state’s wealth a red flag appears:
Some states: Florida, Mississippi and Alabama have a double disadvantage. They have low funding levels and do not increase funding for areas with concentrated poverty.
While it has long been recognized that the funding system needs fixing, to do so is complicated. The amount of money the State allocates is adjusted by a whole series of factors like a sparsity supplement and declining enrollment supplement among others. If Senator Hukill’s bill is passed, the State can reevaluate its priorities and procedures to meet the needs of students and districts.
It is time to fix the system.