The Revenue Estimating Conference offered good news Wednesday when it comes to Public Education Capital Outlay spending.
The actual appropriated number of $279.4 million could increase by nearly $75 million, to $353.6 million, without bonding.
That number is up $200,000 from the estimate in August.
With bonding, the ceiling is considerably higher: $3.129 billion.
If these bonds are not issued in the current fiscal year, the capacity moves to the following fiscal year.
However, there was no bonding in the current fiscal year, and just $125 million of such the previous year. With conservative Jose Oliva as House Speaker, it is at least an open question as to whether there will be legislative appetite for deficit spending.
The FY 2021-22 forecast, previously $341.4 million, was adjusted downward to $338.4 million in a bonding free scenario.
To put that number in context, spending before the 2008 recession sometimes exceeded $1 billiion annually.
Amy Baker, head of the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research, cautioned against reading too much into no bonding last year, given that it was the Governor’s first year in office.
However, the Governor’s budget proposal, which stresses reserve levels, does not include PECO borrowing.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has dubbed 2020 the “Year of the Teacher,” advocating a restructuring of teacher bonuses and an elimination of the “Best and the Brightest” program.
The DeSantis proposal is ambitious: $22.9 billion for the Florida Education Finance Program (FEDP), an increase of over $1 billion. $900M to “recruit and retain” teachers, with $600M to boost the minimum salary of all teachers to $47,500, and $300M more for the Florida Classroom Teacher and Principal Bonus programs.
Additionally, $25M is slotted to workforce development schemes, and a $46M boost year over year for colleges and universities.
Total student spending, said a speaker from the Governor’s Office on the call, was $7,990 … a “massive increase” in investment. Likewise, the teacher’s pay boost, as was messaged in October, would make starting pay the second-highest in the country.
Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who chairs the budget committee, filed a bill to end the “Best and the Brightest” teacher bonus program.
SB 440 would revoke Florida law defining the program, which has been controversial with many teachers, who note that it’s easier to hit the bonuses in A or B schools.
Sen. Manny Diaz, a Hialeah Republican who chairs the education committee, filed a bill (SB 1088) that could erode the $47,500 proposal.
Rather than target only districts whose starting salary sits below the $47,500 number, Diaz is seeking to spread any additional money allocated for teacher pay more equitably across the state — even to districts at or near that minimum number.
“Do we stick to $47,500? That’s yet to be debated,” Diaz told Florida Politics’ Ryan Nicol. “Does the number $45,000 bring us near the Top 10 [nationwide]? Is the number $43,000?”
While things certainly can change, the legislative fight this year will likely be on teacher compensation and not new buildings.
The Florida Education Association, meanwhile, noted last year that the bulk of PECO spending will go to charter schools.