Education funding seeing big boosts in 2019

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The Florida Legislature has opted to give Florida schools a big funding boost in the 2019 budget that now awaits Governor Ron DeSantis' signature.

It revamps the state’s Best and Brightest teacher bonus program by removing the requirement SAT and ACT scores be factored into eligibility.

“This is more bonuses than ever," said DeSantis.

Three hundred million dollars for the bonus program is $100 million less than Governor DeSantis asked for initially, but he says coupled with increased flexible funds it can make a notable impact on teacher pay.

“You have an opportunity to see some significant compensation increases for teachers, which I think we have to do. We're in the bottom third," said DeSantis. "We've got to do better than that.”

DeSantis also says he intends to revisit teacher salaries and benefits next year to address the growing teacher shortage in the state.

This year will also see an increase in per-student funding of just over $240. Education advocates call it a small step in the right direction.

“We ultimately would like to see more money going into the base, but this is certainly a lot better than what the House was saying and is certainly a lot better than we've seen in four years," said Florida Education Association Vice President Andrew Spar.

The bill also includes $130 million that would be used to pay for private school vouchers for 18,000 additional students. The voucher program passed this year is similar to one passed under Governor Jeb Bush.

That program was successfully challenged in the courts, and traditional public school advocates say another suit could be on the horizon.

“It goes down a very dangerous slope towards destroying the uniform system of public education and certainly gives tax dollars to private institutions," said Spar.

However, a newly conservative-leaning State Supreme Court may be more inclined to side with school choice advocates this time around.