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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Senate Pre-k-12 Appropriations Committee seeks to shield education from big cuts



Chairman David Simmons introduced the first round of the Senate's proposed pre-K-12 budget appropriation on Thursday with "cautious optimism" and several caveats that it's preliminary and subject to change.

His cautionary remarks came because the Senate's version of the budget with its 1.6 percent cut in total funding appears much more generous than the House's proposed 7.7 percent cut.

"Remember this, the House budget does not have this kind of money for pre-K-12," Simmons told his committee this morning. "This is not the time to party. This is the time to work harder. ... There are going to be challenges to keep what we have here."

Among the highlights:

The Senate aims to use general revenue to replace nonrecurring federal stimulus funding for voluntary prekindergarten and the Florida Education Finance Program, keeping spending levels as close to 2010-11 amounts as possible. Other areas of the state budget would decline to support this, Simmons said.

Simmons noted that local taxes will generate less money than in the past, with taxable values continuing to decline.

Possible changes to class size rules giving schools more flexibility in applying the amendment could save as much as $70 million, not reflected in this proposal.

Also not reflected are dollars remaining in some district accounts from the federal EduJobs bill, and expected losses from districts that no longer may collect a .25 mill local option tax for critical needs.

Watch for more budget information after another revenue estimate at the end of this week.


[Last modified: Thursday, March 17, 2011 11:54am]


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