Budget conference: Chambers near agreement on teacher pay, K-12 schools funding

Empty school classroom in cartoon style. Education concept witho
The Senate agreed to spend $200M on dedicated teacher pay increases.

House and Senate budget negotiators took a big step toward reaching an agreement on K-12 school funding, as the Senate offered to spend $200.5 million on dedicated teacher pay increases.

The amount is just short of the nearly $202 million the House prefers, but a departure from the Senate’s original position of spending money on teacher pay in a way that would’ve given school districts more discretion on how to spend those funds.

The House had agreed to spend $290 million for the safe schools portion of the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), the main funding formula for public schools. That’s a $40 million increase on the budget (HB 5001) it passed earlier in the Session, matching the Senate’s plan. The House also boosted mental health funds for schools by $20 million to meet the Senate.

That puts the chambers close on the FEFP, with the latest Senate offer coming in at $28.4 billion, or nearly $1.8 billion more than the current year. That’s a total of $8,959 in per student funding, a $240 increase on the current year.

But there remain significant differences over some education programs. For instance, the House wants $20 million for the New Worlds Scholarship program promoting early literacy, while the Senate included $5 million for the program in its latest offer. The Florida Civics Seal of Excellence program would get $15 million in the House budget but $5 million in the Senate’s plan.

One of the biggest differences is over the Florida School for Competitive Academics, which was created through a bill last year to “provide a rigorous academic curriculum,” while also preparing students for academic competitions throughout the country. The Senate wants $49.5 million for the school, while the House has $271,000 slotted.

The Senate is also seeking $4 million for a Safe Schools Canine program, but the House doesn’t fund the program.

Rep. Josie Tomkow, a Polk City Republican, and Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, said they’ll likely meet again in a formal budget conference on Wednesday. Any unresolved issues at the end of the day Wednesday will be “bumped” to the full Appropriations Committee.

Gray Rohrer

One comment

  • RCR

    February 29, 2024 at 2:29 pm

    Politicians have no problem throwing more money at stuff, because the tax payer foots the bill and it’s virtually no skin off the politician. In fact, it often enhances their support from the Unions and surprise, surprise, more campaign contributions flow in from the Union and the Union bosses. I’ll scratch your back and you’ll scratch mine , is the unofficial game played in Tallahassee and in Washington DC. Politicians love the Lobbyists because they come forth with gifts, not necessarily hard cash, but perks that only they appreciate.

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