K-12 Spending Up; New Vouchers Lose
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Florida lawmakers gave schools a financial shot in the arm this spring, while shooting down many of Gov. Jeb Bush’s key education proposals.
The Republican-controlled legislature increased aid for precollegiate education by about $561 million, or 6.4 percent, during its session ending in May. The budget lifts total K-12 state spending to about $9.3 billion for fiscal 2006.
Lawmakers resisted Gov. Bush’s push for more school choice. The governor, a Republican, had wanted private school vouchers for students who failed state reading tests for three straight years, a plan that would have offered tuition aid to more than 170,000 students.
But the legislature expanded another school choice program, allowing the statewide cap on so-called tax-credit scholarships to rise from $50 million to $88 million. The move will offer an additional 9,000 scholarships—which are financed by private donations to scholarship-granting nonprofit groups—to students from low-income families, adding to the 11,000 now receiving the aid.
The legislature failed to pass a plan backed by the governor to tighten oversight of schools that receive voucher money, and did not approve his plan to improve middle schools.
Legislators also rejected Gov. Bush’s plan to seek a statewide vote to curb a constitutional amendment that limits class sizes in public schools. His failed plan also called for a new amendment setting the minimum starting teacher salary as $35,000. He views the class-size limits as too expensive and unmanageable.
Vol. 24, Issue 43, Page 28