Budget conference: Senate, House agree on funding new Alachua Co. magnet school
Young female teacher or a student writing math formula on blackboard in classroom.

Young female teacher or a student writing math formula on blackboard in classroom.
Florida School for Competitive Academics aims to nurture students who can stuff the competition in debate, or a science fair.

The Senate and the House committees charged with funding education agree on the math for a school that aims to nurture the state’s academic superstars.

Budget worksheets show the House and the Senate have agreed the Florida School for Competitive Academics should get about $44 million. It would be a public magnet school in Alachua County aiming to produce students who win academic competitions in all areas of study, especially science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Republican Sen. Keith Perry, representing Levy and Marion counties in addition to parts of Alachua County, introduced the legislation (SB 1386) that would create the school serving about 400 sixth- to 12th-graders.

Perry’s bill setting up the school is currently on the Senate calendar awaiting its second reading. Its companion (HB 1393), which Republican Rep. John Snyder of Stuart introduced, is currently awaiting its second committee hearing.

A bill analysis reflected in the budget worksheet shows $20 million going for capital costs and $24 million to cover start-up and operational costs.

The school’s opening is planned for the 2024-25 school year.

The Governor would appoint its board of trustees, who would then be confirmed by the Senate, so the school wouldn’t be under the authority of any particular school district. The school would be exempt from regulations much the way public charter schools are, according to an analysis of Perry’s proposal.

Admission to the school would be selective and the legislation calls for setting up an online portal for parents to submit their children’s academic records for consideration.

Budget conference subcommittees will meet throughout the week to resolve differences in each area. When remaining issues reach an impasse, they will be “bumped” to the full budget conference committee.

Lawmakers must reach an agreement on a final spending plan by May 2 to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the state constitution before they can vote on the budget to avoid pushing the Regular Session past its scheduled May 5 end date.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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