Saturday, February 28, 2009

Legislative Update




This subject (like the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act law itself) is enormous, and it still too early for local districts to know much about it that it will be especially useful for budget planning purposes. However, one of the best sources so far seems to be the "Economic Stimulus Resource Center" run by the National School Boards Association.




Also, the federal government has created a new Web site devoted to ARRA that may be useful for general information, and which may be useful for more specific purposes in the future.


Federal stimulus site:


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The Governor released his proposed state budget last week, and it included $21.5 billion for education. It also included considerable dependence on the federal stimulus fundingabout 12 percent of the overall budget. Florida will need to seek a waiver from the U.S. Secretary of Education in order to be eligible to receive these funds, because Florida's current funding level for education is too low to qualify for the federal assistance. In addition, this level of reliance on one-time funding for recurring costs will require a 3/5 vote of the legislature because it is four times higher than the 3 percent permitted by the state Constitution.


The proposed budget could raise per-student from the current $6,860 to as much as $7,044 in FY2010.


This proposed budget makes some assumptions about revenue based on November estimates that have historically been much higher than March estimates. Senate President Jeff Atwater and several school district superintendents have criticized the budget on this basis.


The Governor's budget also proposes several new revenue sources, including $529 million from taxes on a bottled water fee, a 10 percent increase in the cost of motor vehicle registration, a 10 percent increase in drivers license fees, and increases in the solid waste disposal fee and the fee on overweight trucks.


Other sources of revenue included raising $300 million by bonding for prison construction, claiming a total of $288 million from the Seminole Tribe in an as-yet unratified gambling compact, borrowing an additional $400 million from trust funds, and saving another $274 million in trust fund reductions.


The Governor's budget would minimize further cuts to education. This has been generally well-received by advocates for public education who have held local rallies across the state in anticipation of statewide rally at the University of Central Florida on February 28th.


The budget proposal may be found at


Forbes overview at



Articles on local and state rally efforts:
















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The Governor recently appeared on MSNBC's "Meet The Press" to express his support for leveraging the federal stimulus funding to Florida's advantage.




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About a dozen people have forwarded this link to me, and I can see why. FASA recently conducted a survey inviting its members to submit examples of the local costs of school budget cuts. They got back 240 responses, most of them horrific, which were run recently in a St. Petersburg Times blog. Remember that these are unverified statements from a non-scientific survey, but you might find them illuminating nonetheless.


St. Petersburg Times


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A controversial proposal from 2005 has returned. Back then, the "65% solution" promoted by Patrick Byrne of was to require all school districts in the country to move budgeted funds so that 65% of all expenses were "in the classroom." The argument in favor of the proposal was that school districts don't establish budget priorities well, so requiring that classroom costs be budgeted at this level would put limited funds where they will do the most good. However, defining what is "in the classroom" and what isn't turns out to be enormously difficult, since all school district expenses are of course directed toward making what happens in classrooms possible.


No state adopted the plan after educators pointed out that this plan would do harm to many essential services (librarians, counselors, bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, nurses, etc.) that also contribute in an important way to student learning. Standard & Poors found that the 65% point showed no statistical importance to student learning, and even found that there is no percentage point at all that has this kind of significance. The idea faded away, or so it seemed at the time.


It resurfaced again last year when the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission proposed a constitutional amendment that would establish the 65% rule. This proposed amendment was thrown out by the Florida Supreme Court as being misleading to voters.


However, now the idea has resurfaced in two new bills before the Florida legislature, but now the percentage has increased from 65% to 70%.


HB 883


SB 1978


Standard & Poor's


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Chance that a U.S. schoolteacher is married to another schoolteacher: 1 in 6


Per-pupil expenditures for K-12 education in the U.S. in FY2006: $8,587


Per-pupil expenditure in Florida for the same year: 7,630


Percent by which Florida's expenditures were below average: 12%


Number of budget savings suggestions received by Pinellas school district officials: 16,996


Estimated number of people who showed up at budget meeting of Brevard County school officials and state lawmakers: 10,000


Number of seats in the meeting hall: 2,000





1: Miami Herald


2-4: U.S. Department of Education


5: St. Petersburg Times


6-7: WFTV


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