On the eve of Teacher Appreciation Week, the Legislature has made clear that it appreciates neither teachers nor neighborhood public schools.
While the Florida Education Association (FEA) welcomes any increase in funding for our students, the budget approved today by state lawmakers falls short of meeting the needs of our neighborhood public schools, and measures enacted by the Legislature this session stand to reduce funding for public education in the years to come.
“No doubt, $75 is better than the 47 cents per student we saw last year,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram said of the increase to the base student allocation (BSA). “This year’s budget is a small step forward, but it is far from enough to overcome more than a decade of underfunding for our schools. And even that small step is undercut by the Legislature’s other actions.
“Lawmakers are pouring $130 million, to start, into a new voucher program that will pay unaccountable private and religious schools straight out of taxpayers’ pockets. They are funding a bonus scheme instead of fair, competitive salaries that will allow us to recruit and retain teachers and school staff. I need to believe that state leaders want Florida’s students to succeed but, given the evidence, I’d say they’re setting our students and neighborhood public schools up for failure in the near future.”
Per-student revenue in Florida ranked 42nd in the nation in 2018, with spending remaining below pre-recession levels. The average teacher salary in Florida has dropped to 46th in the nation, while many school staff earn a wage below the federal poverty line. We face a growing teacher shortage. More than 4,000 classrooms were without a qualified teacher at the start of this school year, and there may soon be more than 10,000 teacher vacancies according to Florida Department of Education projections.
The proposed state budget would increase Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) per-student funding by $242.60 for a total of $7,672.02. The base student allocation, which represents funds available for school operations and staff salaries, would increase by $75.07 per student for a total of $4,279.49. The new “Family Empowerment” voucher program, meanwhile, would initially cost taxpayers roughly $130 million and grow each year, sending ever larger sums of public money to private and religious schools not subject to the same standards and oversight as our public schools.
“This is a growing and vibrant state, but our education funding puts us in the bottom 10 nationally. The new budget won’t do much to change that,” Ingram said. “Our students deserve better, and this state can do better. The Florida Education Association will keep up the good fight, for our students, educators and neighborhood public schools.”
CONTACT: Joni Branch, (850) 201-3223 or (850) 544-7055
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 140,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.