The Florida Legislature finished the 2019 Legislative Session on Saturday, May 4— one day late. They needed the extra time to put the finishing touches on a budget that gives a little more to public schools than last year but funnels millions more to unaccountable, privately owned schools.
Read the update below to learn about the bills that will greatly impact our students, teachers and public schools. Even though session has ended, we must continue to advocate for policies that invest in children and support their future.
After some back and forth negotiations between the Senate and House, the final per-student increase for the 2019-2020 school year will be $243. Within that figure is a $75 per-pupil increase in the Base Student Allocation (BSA) which is the flexible spending money districts use for the day-to-day costs of operating schools including teacher salaries.
Please note: the per student amount is artificially high because the Legislature included the controversial Best and Brightest teacher bonus as a part of their per-pupil calculation. (In past years, they did not include the bonus money in the per pupil amount.)
Florida's children deserve better. We currently rank near the bottom of all states for school funding.
On Thursday, Governor DeSantis signed a bill creating a new voucher program that will strip over $130 million in funds from public schools in its first year. This new program diverts our tax dollars to privately owned schools with no public oversight or accountability.
This legislation uses taxes to fund vouchers to privately owned schools for families making 300 percent of the federal poverty level (about $77,000 for a family of four) or less. We, the public, have no idea who owns these schools, what they are teaching or how well the students are learning. Furthermore, the schools do not have to accept all students and we have no recourse if the schools shut down mid-year.
School Safety (SB 7030/HB 7093)
This controversial plan expands legislation that was passed last year after the tragedy at Parkland and allows teachers to carry firearms in the classroom. Once this is enacted, it will be up to school districts to decide if they want to opt into this program. Many school boards have already voted to prohibit the arming of classroom teachers and have instead invested in meaningful security measures to keep students safe.
Tax Bill (HB 7123)
The Florida Legislature passed a tax bill that includes a measure to force districts to share future tax referenda with charter schools. The controversial bill originally included a provision that required districts with existing referenda to retroactively share the funds. This was eliminated in negotiations. However, future efforts to fund public schools through local taxes will be required to include charters.