Florida Governor Rick Scott highlighted his education budget proposal at Jacksonville’s Englewood Elementary School Wednesday morning.
Scott’s wish-list includes an increase in education funding for the sixth year in a row. However, Duval County Public Schools district leaders are lobbying for much more.
Governor Scott spoke in Englewood’s library, surrounded by dozens of students.
“So your parents have jobs and they pay taxes, right?,” he said to the students. “They pay taxes for a variety of things. One of the most important things they pay taxes for besides police, is your school.”
His more than $21 billion K-12 budget includes increasing per-student funding by $200, taking money awarded to districts for each student from about $7,297 to $7,497.
The money would come from general revenue as well as property taxes, called the “Required Local Effort.”
Over the past couple years legislators have held property taxes at a constant amount by reducing rates to keep them that way. Scott instead wants to keep the rates the same, as properties increase in value.
The amount of local funding provided in the [per-student] calculation primarily increased due to a 6.15 percent, or $117.1 billion, rise in the school taxable value that was the result of an increase in the value of Florida property. That’s according to the state’s FAQ on Scott’s budget.
Scott attributes that rise to the jobs created during his tenure.
“We have been able to do this because we’ve completely turned this economy around,” Scott said.
School Board Chair Paula Wright said getting this funding would be huge if lawmakers get on board, adding those additional dollars could help Duval County’s district increase from a B grade to an A.
“Please parents, teachers, citizens take this opportunity to let our legislators know that it is so important that they support the governor’s recommendation,” she said.
That could be a stretch. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said on WJCT’S Policy Matters this month he considers dollars generated via increasing property values a tax increase, something he hasn’t supported in the past.
When WJCT asked Scott if the additional funding was a tall order he said that’s why it’s important for people to call their legislators.
“I’m going to keep fighting for more money for our kids,” he said.
Scott’s education budget also includes $15 million for coding programs in schools and $12 million in funding to establish the English Language Learners Summer Academics program. Students displaced by Hurricane Maria would be able to participate in the program which emphasizes reading improvements.
But Duval County is also looking for more funding for building and maintenance projects. The school board wants wants the legislature to reverse a nearly decade-old 25 percent reduction in the cap on taxes that pay for those projects.
And, Wright said, the district wants to see teachers paid more.
“If Florida is going to be a great state in terms of education, we’ve got to pay teachers more money,” she said.
The state’s budget FAQ says “Instead of pay raises, like he proposed in 2013, Governor Scott is proposing a total of more than $63 million in funding for the Teacher Classroom Supply Assistance Program.”
His budget includes an additional $100 per teacher to buy classroom supplies. Currently Florida teachers receive $250