Children from Puerto Rico are expected in Hillsborough schools
It's safe to assume that when residents of Puerto Rico begin leaving the island in large numbers, many will take up residence in Florida.
But what part of Florida, and where will they go to school?
Hillsborough County is an obvious destination, with the second largest Puerto Rican population (114,555 in 2014) after Orange County.
And the schools have a lot of seats. Districtwide, there were 27,000 vacant seats as of a few months ago, when district officials wrote up their five-year capital plan. Schools in the Town 'n Country area -- where many Puerto Rican families now live -- have a lot of those seats.
But extra teachers are another matter, as Hillsborough has been adjusting staffing levels to save money. And there are more questions pertaining to funding.
Here are some of the issues, laid out this week in a School Board finance committee meeting:
Damages from Hurricane Irma will likely lower property values around the state, and some homeowners will appeal their property assessments to reflect those damages. This will probably happen in counties such as Dade, Lee and Monroe more than Hillsborough. "That could be an issue to our revenue," said chief business officer Gretchen Saunders.
But the funding situation will not necessarily match up with where the students live and go to school. Even though "the state dollars are going to follow our students." Saunders said, that depends largely on when they arrive. The official enrollment count, for funding purposes, ends on Oct. 13. If a large number of students arrive in Hillsborough, say, in November, they might not be counted unless they are still in Hillsborough during the next enrollment count in the spring,
Sometimes there are exceptions, Saunders said. In agricultural counties, where the population changes dramatically during the winter harvest season, there is sometimes another count in December.
No one knows yet how any of this will shake out, and we will keep a close watch on it.