The Governor’s budget announcement highlighted “historic” investments in education — including $200 million for increases in educational personnel salaries, new money for student transportation, and more for a civic engagement initiative.
“Even though we’re cutting taxes, even though we’re able to reduce overall spending and pay down debt, we are still able to do a historic $27.8 billion in funding for the K-12 public school system,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “That’s the highest amount of funding.”
The per-pupil investment will increase by $175 to $8,842 for every student — a 2% bump over the last year. The annual core inflation rate for the 12 months ending in October was 4% according to a report from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Still, the state’s largest teachers union, the Florida Education Association (FEA) put out a release decrying the budget before the Governor was finished delivering his budget remarks at the charter school, Marco Island Charter Middle School. Adjusted for inflation, less money is going to K-12 public education and educators are making less than they did 10 years ago, union leaders said.
“The governor’s proposal today made it clear he will continue to devalue Florida’s hard-working educators,” said Andrew Spar, FEA President.
The $200 million increase for teacher salaries will do little to move the state out of the basement in state ranking for experienced teacher pay, considering there are 200,000 teachers in Florida, Spar said. He called the contention that the state is spending historic amounts “fuzzy math” — it’s actually less than last year’s total state investment, he said.
The release also cited the results of a poll from Clearview Research that showed that most respondents (55%) believe that Florida education is on the wrong track.
The Governor had strong praise for the expansion in parental choice that the Legislature passed earlier this year, which went into effect with the new school year in August.
“We’ve created an environment where schools have an incentive to continue to do better and that’s why I think you’ve seen not only our achievement results be good, but within our school districts you’ve seen improvements as well as our charter and private school folks.”
The budget will include state funding for 300,000 K-12 students to put toward private school tuition, DeSantis said.
“That’s a huge, huge deal,” DeSantis said. “No one else in the country is able to match that.”
Florida’s adoption of universal school choice represented by last Session’s legislation was the largest expansion of school choice since the movement started.
But Spar said the Governor’s focus is all wrong. The FEA news release noted that 90% of the state’s students attend public schools.
“Voters want strong public schools for every child, and they do not support the Governor’s continued divisive tactics,” Spar said.
The Governor’s budget, which DeSantis is calling Focus on Florida Future, also promises more civics education. He announced “another $52 million for all our civics programs,” and highlighted the $3,000 bonus that goes to any teacher willing to go through training that was developed by a private, Christian school, Hillsdale College, and the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.
“We’re going to continue to stress the importance that when we graduate students from our school system here, we don’t want them to be blank slates,” DeSantis said. “We want them to understand what it means to be an American.”