DeSantis' budget proposal would mean more money for public schools, and less for universities
It includes a second round of $1,000 bonuses to teachers and principals.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday released a proposed education budget for next year that includes record spending for public schools but a cut in university funding.
DeSantis is requesting that lawmakers provide $23.9 billion for the kindergarten through 12th-grade system, a $1.1 billion increase over the current year. The proposal would provide $8,000 in per-student spending, an increase of nearly $200.
In an effort to retain educators amid an ongoing teacher shortage, DeSantis wants to use $238 million in federal stimulus money to give a second round of $1,000 bonuses to teachers and principals. Lawmakers approved using federal money for an initial round of $1,000 bonuses during the 2021 legislative session, which ended in April.
“That’s over 175,000 individuals,” DeSantis said of the number of educators who are eligible to receive the bonuses.
DeSantis included the education spending in an overall $99.7 billion budget proposal that he unveiled Thursday. Lawmakers will use the proposal as a starting point as they negotiate a 2022-2023 budget during the legislative session that will start Jan. 11.
The governor announced parts of his education spending plan in November and reiterated them Thursday. That included $600 million to continue a plan to boost minimum teacher salaries to $47,500 — a benchmark that the state has not reached.
“That’s $50 million above what we did in the last fiscal year. So we’re proud of that and we’re proud of the momentum we have there,” DeSantis said, referring to $550 million in the current budget.
But the Florida Education Association teachers union criticized DeSantis’ proposal because it does not target money to raise salaries for veteran teachers. Union President Andrew Spar said the proposal would not solve problems with teacher shortages.
“At a time that calls for true leadership, when our public schools are in crisis, the governor offers more of the same,” Spar said. “His proposal will not address Florida’s massive shortage of teachers and support staff. It fails the students in our public schools.”
Local officials also could increase pay for teachers and other school employees through a proposed $124 increase in what’s known as the base student allocation.
A $20 million increase in school mental-health funding and a $30 million boost to school-safety spending also were included in Thursday’s budget rollout
While DeSantis touted increased money for K-12 schools, his proposed spending plan would include a $100 million cut in funding for state universities compared to the current year.
The governor is proposing $2.7 billion in operating funds for universities and would keep funding for state colleges at $1.3 billion.
The governor’s so-called “Freedom First” budget also would fully fund the Bright Futures scholarship program at $602 million. Funding for the program became a controversial topic during the 2021 legislative session when lawmakers considered tying scholarship amounts to Bright Futures’ appropriations in the state budget, a proposal that ultimately failed and that DeSantis opposes.
The proposal also would set aside $40 million to revive a Bright Futures textbooks stipend for scholarship recipients.
The governor, who frequently emphasizes alternatives to traditional four-year universities, also highlighted proposed funding for workforce education and career training programs.
“The Freedom First budget contains over $530 million for workforce initiatives, for programs, for apprenticeships, things that really provide great opportunity for a lot of folks throughout the state of Florida but also continue to support our economy and make Florida a great place. Particularly for logistics and manufacturing, which we’re starting to do very well in,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also reiterated Thursday that his budget does not include increased tuition at state colleges and universities.