The defense (Florida) in Citizens for Strong Schools argues that districts have enough money or can get enough through discretionary millage assessment on property taxes. The problem they assert, is mismanagement and a reordering of priorities. Do they have a point? You can check out this claim in your local districts. We are looking into budget priorities in Alachua County. We have also looked at the state audits of the district in past years. The hard choices they suggest are destructive choices. They can rob the programs that the State brags about to help improve conditions for at risk kids. Some choices are just bad choices.
We had a bussing citation in our audit. So, management has not been perfect. Our priorities for our local referendum are for art, music, counselors, magnet and certification programs. We have cut some administrative staff and closed one school and repurposed another. The repurposed school is to serve preK and kindergarten students in a low income area. Another failing school has been turned into an arts magnet, but it primarily serves low income at risk kids. We have a parent academy bus that goes into at risk neighborhoods. We have a school to prison pipeline program called the ‘Circle of Care. Nevertheless, at risk children in other schools must give up art, music, and PE to comply with the state mandate for the extra hour of reading.
So, how does Alachua County score on priorities? We could divert more money to the extra hour needed for instruction and add more for a needed summer program. What would we trade for that when we reorder our priorities? Should we set up a battle between programs for higher achieving students like our certification programs of which the state is so proud in order to provide more instructional time for at risk children? The State gave our district an ‘A’, but many of those at risk kids would not.
What choices would your district have to make?
This is what it comes down to. The state argues that local voters could assess themselves even more money. We are doing more than our fair share now. The State of Florida needs to step up and do its share. Where are the State of Florida priorities? Our low national ranking on funding is an ‘F’. This is a clue.