House and Senate budgeters will defer to lead negotiators on primary and secondary education after a difference of opinion derailed discussions.
The House and Senate couldn’t agree on whether the Legislature has the authority to distribute a portion of federal funds that have been set aside for school districts. As a result, PreK-12 negotiators Sen. Doug Broxson and Rep. Randy Fine are saving the debate for the top level of leadership.
Lawmakers are saving the consideration of $10 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan expected for Florida for the next stage of the budget process. Also in the American Rescue Plan is about $12 million for Florida’s school districts, which the House wants to allocate itself.
“The House’s position is that the Legislature should appropriate the federal funds,” Fine said. “I guess the Senate is just not there yet.”
As a result, the entire PreK-12 education portion of the budget will head to the next level of the budget process, where lead budgeters Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Jay Trumbull will negotiate the differences.
“Without that, it was difficult to match up our projects together and some of the issues, so that kind of threw a monkey wrench into the whole process.” Broxson said.
While the entire budget is getting “bumped,” that doesn’t completely nullify agreements Broxson’s and Fine’s teams made. Stargel’s and Trumbull’s teams will likely agree to some allocations that have already been hashed out.
Among the latest agreements lawmakers made in the latest round of negotiations, the Senate agreed to provide school districts with $42 million in school hardening grants, maintaining the level of funding provided last year. Initially they had scrapped that item while the House wanted to maintain it at the normal levels.
School hardening is meant to improve the physical security of school buildings based on the results of the Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool.
“I know neither one of us are really happy that we did not get an earlier start, and now we’re at the point we’re at the end of the process and we’re just gonna have to send it up to our big chair, the President and Speaker and their chair and let them solve the issues,” Broxson said.