✎ Public schools are at their lowest level of state funding since 2006-07. Last year’s budget slashed Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) funding by $1.3 billion, and it is now down more than $2 billion since 2007-2008.
✎ In 2008-09 the state share of support for Florida public schools fell below 50 percent for the first time since 1973 — despite the passage of a class size amendment to the constitution. By the way, while the Florida Department of Education notes in 2010-2011 there were 849 core courses that counted for class size, after the last legislative session, the
FDOE only counted about 300.
✎ While per student funding will go up an average of $160 per student this coming year, the legislature slashed $682 for each student last year.
✎ For the second year in a row, Florida’s traditional K-12 public schools will not receive any money from the state for school maintenance, repairs, or renovations. All of the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) trust fund allocations in the K-12 arena will go to charter schools. Compounding this is that many Floridians are switching their landline telephones for wireless phones — which are not taxed for the PECO program — further depressing available funding.
Surprised by all this? We were. And sorely disappointed. But wait. It gets worse. Much worse. Because of the passage of new legislation tying teachers’ pay and evaluations to student test scores, this year teachers who do not teach FCAT tested subjects and grades will be evaluated on test scores of students they may have never taught or even met.
According to the Florida Department of Education, 79 percent of schools receiving that $106 million were religious in nature. How well do you think you understand state education funding now? In a state that under-finances schools in the best of times, we’re looking at teachers and education staff professionals losing their jobs, schools being closed, arts and music programs curtailed or eliminated, after-school programs and summer classes cancelled or scaled way back, and fewer school resource officers and crossing guards. At the same time we are facing an assault on high quality teaching and student learning, increases in state support for vouchers and alternatives to traditional public schools and rapid, changing expectations from politicians. What we’re not looking at is political leaders facing up to their responsibilities to invest in Florida’s future: our children and all those who work to educate them and prepare them for the future.
The Florida Education Association (FEA) believes it entirely possible to craft an accountability system, teacher appraisal and performance-pay system that will help ensure all students learn more deeply from highly effective teachers. At a minimum, this new system must be clearly defined, fair, transparent, funded, and most of all collaborative.
|The Prize Patrol Finds the Winner: Who knew a few computer clicks and a membership card activation could lead to a free vacation. Ashley VanHolten is the winner of the FEA/ ACCESS membership card activation contest. Watch the FEA Prize Patrol visit.|