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Florida sees record education budget

While not yet signed by the Governor, the new state budget is getting high marks from educators.
While not yet signed by the Governor, the new state budget is getting high marks from educators.
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 4:50 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - While not yet signed by the Governor, the new state budget is getting high marks from educators.

A mix of federal funds and a growing economy offset what was going to be a dismal year for funding.

On the Legislature’s opening day, the Governor issued this warning.

“I reject reductions in funding for K-12 education,” Governor Ron DeSantis said.

At the time, across the board cuts seemed likely. Instead, per-student funding is up $39. There are also $1,000 teacher bonuses and $550 million to increase starting pay.

“Thankfully, we have a state whose economy is thriving,” Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Andrea Messina said.

But the Florida Education Association, which is applauding lawmakers, argues the increase does nothing to keep veteran teachers.

“Look, someone coming into the profession who is told you are going to make $47,500 to start, but you’re not going to go anywhere for the next ten to fifteen years, who’s staying in the profession, right?” FEA President Andrew Spar said.

Lawmakers also left local school taxes as is. That’s known as the required local effort and it means if a home’s value is increasing, property owners are going to pay more. It’s a $201 million increase statewide.

“The required local effort is really what has paid for growth in public schools,” Messina said.

And the union is calling on lawmakers, who are back next week to okay a $500 million-a-year gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, to use that money to keep teachers in the classroom.

“This is an opportunity to increase support for our public schools, which every parent wants,” Spar said.

But how lawmakers use any gambling money will likely wait a year, in anticipation of lawsuits challenging the gambling deal.

The budget also sets aside nearly $500 million to fund thousands of students who dropped out or didn’t show up for class last fall because of the pandemic but are expected to return this fall.