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Politics

FSBA to Lawmakers: Pass Record-High Education Budget

May 20, 2015 - 6:00pm

In the wake of not yet having a budget for Floridas schools, the Florida School Boards Association is urging state lawmakers to say yes to Gov. Rick Scotts proposal for record-breaking education funding.

The Legislature will be coming back to Tallahassee June 1 to work out the states budget, and the state has already laid out a plan to ramp up funding for the states schools. On Tuesday, the Florida School Boards Association voted unanimously to support record-high funding for schools.

The proposed budget for Florida public schools for 2015-2016 is the highest ever at $19.75 billion.

This years budget includes nearly $843 million more in funding for K-12 public schools.

On top of a hefty K-12 budget, Scotts proposal also includes funneling money into other aspects of state education as well. The budget proposal aims to expand Floridas Bright Futures Scholarship program to cover credit hours taken during the summer.

The budget would also include $5 million to help state colleges expand STEM programs to cost $10,000 or less for students.

Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart called the most critical component of incorporating Gov. Rick Scotts proposal was to increase Floridas per-student funding. Scotts current proposal would increase per-pupil spending to nearly $7,200 per student for the 2015-16 school year, a $50 increase from the previous high in 2007-2008.

Allocating appropriate funds would also help school districts determine how much revenue theyll receive next year -- most are in the dark since the state Legislature hasnt yet approved a budget. Thats made some of them nervous since the states budget is up in the air -- even Gov. Scott warned it would be possible that his proposal could face roadblocks if the House and Senate dont reach an agreement on the state budget.

I know that our districts are good stewards of our taxpayer dollars and will be able to make meaningful use of these additional funds to improve student outcomes, she said Tuesday. Everything is set in place for this Legislature to do the right thing by education in the state of Florida and really invest in the economic development of our state through the educational system.

Other board members agreed.

Educators can make all the difference in the life of a struggling student, but they must have the necessary resources, said chairman Gary Chartrand, who was appointed to the State Board of Education in 2011. I am optimistic that our students tremendous success in recent years will compel the Florida Legislature to allocate record per-student funding.

State lawmakers will begin negotiations on the state budget from June 1-June 20.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen

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