Governor Scott’s proposed education budget would increase spending for K-12 education by $476 million. Sounds good, right? It amounts to $104 per student and might help Florida keep its ranking of 42nd in per pupil funding in the nation. All but $50 million of the increase comes from local property taxes.
How to we respond?
In a county like Alachua a large proportion of its area is exempt from taxes i.e. universities, colleges, government agencies etc. Everyone else picks up the cost. Senator Gaetz was quoted that the Senate is not likely to vote for property tax increases. It is hard to know whether to cheer. No help for schools should not be a choice. The State should allocate education funds from its revenue. Either way, Florida stays near the bottom on support for schools.
The reality is that Florida is not poor. It also has a relatively low percentage of school age population. It has, however, a larger percentage of older citizens who do not want to pay for schools. Therefore, we have to make a county by county argument to improve our schools and our state. We need to be ready to respond to questions like: How will increased funding make schools better? What are the consequences of failing to act?
In Alachua County, we are looking at improved technology access, more instructional time, support for schools in low-income areas among other things. The League is reviewing budget priorities in a forum planned for this spring.