Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Florida School Boards Association focuses on funding, safety in its legislative agenda

If Florida school districts are to provide proper education in a secure environment, lawmakers need to well fund needed resources to do so, the Florida School Boards Association suggests in its 2019 legislative agenda.

The FSBA, which represents members of all but three of the state's school boards, set four primary objectives in its platform, all of which relate to getting enough money into the education system for specific purposes.

It noted campus security and mental health services — key pieces of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act — as critical components of the coming session. The Legislature mandated added school guards and hardened buildings, along with counseling and other services, in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting in February.

To continue building on those needs, the FSBA said, lawmakers should fund local security and mental health initiatives for the schools, including repeating revenue streams to keep officers and guards in place.

The group also called upon the Legislature to allow districts to maximize the efficient use of available state and local funds by keeping their local property tax rates flat, rather than decreasing them as has occurred in the past few years. That way, districts can benefit from rising property values.

The House and Senate have stood divided on this item in recent sessions.

At the same time, FSBA called for a minimum 3 percent increase in the base student allocation — an unrestricted amount of money that districts can use as needed. Last session, the increase came to 47 cents per student, as lawmakers directed most new funding to security and mental health issues.

FSBA government affairs director Ruth Melton acknowledged that the priorities call for more money, but stressed that the aim is to do best for Florida's children.

"We want to make sure the resources are available to accomplish those most important goals," Melton said.

The group's final plank targeted the state's continuing shortage of high quality teachers and administrators. It suggested changing the time retired educators must remain outside the system from one year to one month.

Read the FSBA's 2019 platform here.

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