Bonus Plan Adopted; Governor Is Rebuffed on Voucher Proposal
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The precollegiate education spending figures do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
In one of the state’s biggest school spending sprees in a decade, Florida lawmakers hiked general state spending on K-12 schools by 11 percent, infusing more money into reading programs and creating a financial-bonus plan for teachers.
What didn’t happen during the 2006 legislative session is noteworthy as well.
Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican nearing the end of his two terms in office, was unable to persuade the legislature to water down a constitutional amendment to reduce class sizes, an expensive initiative approved by voters in 2002. Lawmakers also resisted Mr. Bush’s call to amend the state constitution in response to a Florida Supreme Court decision striking down the private school vouchers that have been a key part of his A-Plus school accountability plan. The proposed amendment sought to replace the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program, which helped students in failing public schools pay for private school tuition. The state high court ruled the program unconstitutional early this year. ("Fla. Court: Vouchers Unconstitutional," Jan. 11, 2006.)
Lawmakers did enact the governor’s A-Plus-Plus plan, which requires high school students to take at least four years of math, instead of three. In addition, high school students will be required to pick a major area of interest, such as the arts, advanced academic studies, or a career area. In middle school, students will be required to create an academic and career plan.
The state will spend $18.8 billion to run public schools in fiscal 2007, an increase of $1.8 billion, or nearly 11 percent more than in the previous year. The total includes $2.2 billion set aside to reduce class sizes, and $147.5 million for a new reward plan for the state’s highest-performing teachers, who can earn bonuses of at least 5 percent of their salaries. The specifics of the reward plan, such as how teachers will be evaluated, will be decided by local districts, with approval from the Florida board of education.
Vol. 26, Issue 01, Page 34