Here's a quick take on the non-flu-related news in education policy and program development this week:
LEGISLATURE SESSION WINDS DOWN
Although last Friday was the 60th day of the legislative session, it's not yet time for sine die. Lawmakers met over the weekend and will keep working this week on a budget and the gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Essentially all other legislative work is done. A quick summary:
The current budget compromise provides for multiple changes in categorical funding vs. general funding, with very slight net per-pupil increase. The impact of this technical increase, however, is significantly diminished because it now includes essential services previously funded directly, such as transportation. To achieve the balanced budget, lawmakers took full advantage of state trust funds, federal stimulus finding, tax increases and user fee increases. The Legislature cut the salaries of all State of Florida employees earning at least $45,000 a year by 2%, except for those in higher education. For the first time ever, Bright Futures scholarships will not cover increased costs of higher education tuition, which will increase by at least 8 percent.
St. Petersburg Times http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/legislature/article997883.ece
A measure to substantially raise Florida's high school graduation requirements seemed to be moving along quickly, but was stopped just short of full approval due to budget concerns. So did a measure to implement a "70% solution." However, an expansion of the state program in which corporate tax credits are exchanged for private school tuition vouchers was approved.
St. Petersburg Times http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/legislature/article997747.ece
One of the major changes in school funding was a transfer of a portion of each school district's capital funds to operating funds. In some districts, this transfer is workable in the short run because Florida's frantic growth has eased off during the recession. However, in some districts, this transfer creates a potentially dangerous depletion of capital funds. The compromise workaround would allow local school boards to raise local taxes slightly to recover the lost funds, subject to a 2010 local referendum to endorse the measure.
The budget situation is still fluid, as is the gambling compact. Stay tuned for the final results this week.
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RUNNING THE NUMBERS
1. Estimated FY10 cost reduction achieved by reducing Bright Futures scholarships: $34.4 million
2. Percentage of entering University of Florida freshmen with Bright Futures scholarships: 95
1, 2. Miami Herald http://www.miamiherald.com/news/florida/story/1026610.html