Senate budget offer has some good news
The first offer is in for the preK-12 budget conference committee, and the news is good, especially for the popular Virtual School. The Senate moves to the House position in a number of key areas:
Per-student funding: Senate moves per-student funding to $6,893, about a $33 increase over the 2008-09 level. That offer is higher than either the previous Senate position (keeping constant at $6,860.36) or the House position ($6,890.46).
Virtual School: The Senate backs away from a planned 15 percent cut to the Florida Virtual School's $116 million budget, using the House model to eliminate class size reduction funds and other measures. The total funds-per-student reduction is about 10 percent, the Senate says. The offer also kills the plan to scale back virtual offerings to just core high school courses, meaning no more summer programs, enrichment or credit recovery courses. "I've come to my senses," said Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, chair of the preK-12 budget conference committee.
AP/IB funding: The Senate proposes keeping money for popular advanced placement and International Baccalaureate classes untouched, unlike its previous plan to halve funding for training and instructional materials and pare the teacher bonus for students who pass the rigorous course exams. School districts have been trying to ramp up AP and IB offerings to prepare for a new high school grading system next year that puts more weight on those courses.
Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said the Senate's offer looks good on first glance.
"We've kept our commitment to keep per-student spending at the same level," she said. "We'll have to spend some time going through it."