NPR is doing a series on public education. They are starting with funding equity and adequacy. Florida is in court over this very issue. I liked the historical context that NPR provided e.g. “Education is a public good and paying for it is a public obligation”.
There is an interactive map on the NPR website where you can find how much funding your state or county within the state received in 2013-14. I got an itchy trigger finger and began poking around. Here’s what I found–it was surprising!
- Hamilton County $14, 649
- State Average $9231
- Alachua $9103.
- Dade $8521
- Seminole $7417
Reports in the newspaper tout the increase in funding, but for 2013, the per student amount was $6778, not $9231 as shown above. You have to be an accountant to make sense of any of this. The easiest way to think about it is to imagine a three step process.
- First, the legislature decides what it wants to spend from general revenue. In 2013, it was $3752 per student.
- Then, they decide how much local communities should pay from property taxes. This local effort generated an additional $3000 per student on average. Some districts generated more than others.
- Finally, the state steps back in to fund special categories like class size reduction, transportation, particular programs etc. A cost of living differential and a sparse population supplement are included. The lottery pays for much of these categorical funds. However, most of the lottery money goes to paying debt service for facility bonds, class size reduction and Bright Futures scholarships.
The end result are the numbers you see in the NPR map. None of this is based on what things cost. Rather, they reflect what the legislature decides to spend. If districts want more money, they must go back to the voters and ask for more in property taxes through a local referendum. Some districts do, and most do not. This revenue is not included in the NPR funding. Bottom line, if you want to know how much is really spent, you must go to individual district budgets.
If you want to know how much money is needed, use your best guess.