Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Schools get their funds

TALLAHASSEE — Lawmakers wrapped up pre-K-12 budget negotiations Friday largely answering the cries of parents, teachers and students who had feared a bloodbath.

In recent months, words like "dire," "drastic," even "horrifying" were used to describe cuts that were expected for the state's education budget.

But as the dust settles, relief is palpable.

"We're going to end up the session with good support for next year," said Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith. "So much better than we were expecting."

Per-student funding holds steady at about $6,873, slightly up from the 2008-09 rate. District administrators get unprecedented flexibility in spending, something school districts have sought for years — even though there is less money to spend. And funding is restored for such popular programs as advanced placement, International Baccalaureate and Florida Virtual School.

Credit for the reprieve goes to more than $2 billion in stimulus money, which lawmakers infused into the pre-K-12 budget (though, technically the application is pending), and late moves to increase the amount used in the 2009-10 year.

Not all was resolved, however. The Senate made a surprise push Friday to include $50,000 for Haitian-American history that hadn't been discussed before. And senators raised late concerns about a plan to shift some property tax money away from school capital spending. House and Senate budget leaders will resolve those issues over the weekend.

When the final budget is printed next week, educators will have a better idea of its affect on their districts. But here's a look at some prime issues lawmakers agreed on:

ADVANCED COURSE funding: The House and Senate agreed not to cut funding to advanced placement, International Baccalaureate and other rigorous high school courses. The Senate had proposed slashing money for training, instructional materials bonuses for teachers whose students pass the exams.

Instructional materials: A plan — opposed by the textbook industry — to extend the adoption cycle of instructional materials from six to eight years was dropped. School districts had wanted it as a way to save money.

"Our position is, buy the math books. Buy the math books!" said Republican Sen. Stephen Wise of Jacksonville, adding that hearing about students sharing textbooks irritated him and his colleagues. "You've got to be kidding me. Children need to have textbooks."

Flexible school scheduling: A budget provision declares that the school term is 180 days or the hourly equivalent, meaning districts can set the calendar to their needs, be it four-day weeks, longer days before holiday breaks to fit in coursework or whatever they decide. Districts asked for this flexibility.

Board-certified teachers: Lawmakers preserved bonuses for Florida's national board-certified teachers, ditching a House plan to limit the bonuses to classroom teachers in low-performing schools.

Fructose in schools: Negotiators fought back a push to ban high-fructose corn syrup items on school menus, an effort led by Rep. Juan Zapata, R-Miami. Studies show food costs would jump if districts had to buy items without the sweetener, which is common in sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and many processed foods.

School board salaries: School board member salaries in 2009-10 will be capped at the average of beginning teachers, something many school districts already do, according to Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. "That's fair," he said.

Times staff writer Jeffrey S. Solochek contributed to this report.


Citizens rates to rise

Lawmakers agree to allow the state-run agency to raise homeowners property insurance by 10 percent annually. Had lawmakers not passed Friday's bill, Citizens likely would have sought rate hikes of 40 to 55 percent — the level Citizens officials say is really needed to cover potential storm losses. Story, 4B

Their triumph over grief

A Valrico couple turned their grief into a political crusade. Now they take pride in the new seat belt law. Steve Bousquet column, 3B

Schools get their funds 05/01/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 1, 2009 10:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. FSU-Tulane coming to Amalie Arena in December


    Florida State basketball is coming to Tampa.

  2. Taylor Swift congratulates Russell Westbrook on MVP Award


  3. Strategic Property Partners launches website for Water Street Tampa


    Strategic Property Partners has launched its official website for Water Street Tampa, its 53-acre redevelopment project in downtown Tampa Tuesday.

    Strategic Property Partners on Tuesday announced the name of its new development: Water Street Tampa. [Photos courtesy of SPP]
  4. Is Mikhail Sergachev, who debuts with Lightning at Wednesday camp, ready for the NHL?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — When defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was taken ninth overall by the Canadiens in the 2016 NHL draft, a horde of Montreal media surrounded him for his first news conference.

    Mikhail Sergachev takes a shot during warmups prior to a game between the Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes in October in Montreal. [Getty Images]
  5. ReliaQuest CEO Brian Murphy named sole Tampa Bay winner in EY state entrepreneur contest


    ReliaQuest founder and CEO Brian Murphy was named one of nine winners statewide and the only one from the Tampa Bay area in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Florida Awards program. Murphy won in the IT security division after starting ReliaQuest in 2007. Five of the nine winners were from the Miami …

    Tampa's ReliaQuest founder and CEO Brian Murphy was named one of nine winners statewide and the only one from the Tampa Bay area in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Florida Awards program. Murphy won in the IT security division after starting ReliaQuest in 2007.