State lawmakers touted the 2019-2020 budget as a win for education. They point to the fact spending on education has reached an all-time high with an increase of $110 million on k-12 schools.
Santa Rosa County School district’s state funding for capital needs has reached new lows, and budgets remain largely flat compared to increasing student populations, leaving the superintendent and school board lobbying for funding help.
These two statements may seem contradictory, but they are the reality. Math is a funny thing, and numbers can be deceiving. Looking at that $110 million investment, it seems like the legislature has stepped up to answer the need.
But as Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick has pointed out, if you have a record number of students attending school, you are going to have a record budget.
One example of screwy math is the state’s funding for facilities.
Of the billions spent on education last year, $322.8 million went toward “public education capital outlay,” better known as PECO dollars. PECO is the state funding for maintenance of facilities and construction of new schools.
Santa Rosa County has not received a single PECO dollar for new construction in years. Maintenance dollars have also been nonexistent.
So, hearing that $158.2 million of PECO would be earmarked for maintenance should be welcome news to the school district. But it’s a farce. Every single dollar of that funding was spent on charter schools.
Santa Rosa did not receive a dime.
Let’s remember that the K-12 increase in spending was $110 million.
$110 million in additional funding
– $158 million diverted from public schools to charter schools
= NEGATIVE $48 million spent on public k-12 schools
Pull the end of a string and the other end comes dragging behind.
Charter schools are a symptom of a larger problem in public schools, cropping up where performance is lacking or curriculum is disappointing. Santa Rosa lacks charter schools in part because the district is top rated and a leader in the country for STEAM curriculum. Some state lawmakers and advocates have chosen to throw all their eggs in the charter school, “school choice” basket rather than address the problem of underfunding and pockets of poverty in the public school system.
Let’s look at some more budget math for Santa Rosa.
The district is projected to receive $3.2 million more in state funding according to the latest report from the Florida Department of Education. Except that is not actually accurate said Assistant Superintendent for Finance Susan McCole. See, there are these pesky things called state mandated expenditures and student population growth.
The school district added 312 students according to the state. That number may be higher, but for the sake of ease, we will accept the state’s math.
– misc. state mandates
But wait, there’s more.
– $90,000 required by the state to be paid to charter schools
So, the entirety of Santa Rosa County School District has $773,000 to meet needs for additional students including textbooks, uncovered ESE student needs, insurance costs, potential teacher raises and on and on.
The district will also see an increase in property tax revenues, but those funds will also be eaten up in increased costs of doing business.
Legislators appear to be focusing in on education and advancing compensation for teachers, but they are pulling one end of the string and expecting it to magically stretch. Our representatives and senators want to proclaim themselves advocates for education as they campaign for reelection across the state, but they’ve failed to solve the problem, instead hiding behind some tricky math.
Be skeptical of cherry-picked math, especially in politics. Doing the math yourself can be revealing.
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