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Schools and money: Crunching the numbers in Hillsborough

Fifth grade writing camp at Kenly Elementary School, which had some of the Hillsborough district's highest per-student funding in 2017-18 according to a new report. Kenly is one of 50 Achievement schools [HCPS Twitter]
Fifth grade writing camp at Kenly Elementary School, which had some of the Hillsborough district's highest per-student funding in 2017-18 according to a new report. Kenly is one of 50 Achievement schools [HCPS Twitter]
Published Mar. 7, 2019

On Tuesday at 10 a.m., the Hillsborough County School Board will get an update on Superintendent Jeff Eakins' Achievement Schools initiative.

Among the issues: How much money do those 50 long-struggling schools receive, relative to the rest of the district?

It's a question that has been asked enough times to prompt board member Cindy Stuart to request a breakdown so she could answer constituents who work in, or send children to schools outside the group of 50.

The short answer: On average, based on numbers from 2017-18, the district spends $9,097 on its Achievement School students and $7,397 on those who are not in the group. That's a gap of $1,700 per student.

Much of that money comes from federal and state anti-poverty programs, which is why district leaders also ran the calculation using just the "general fund," their primary fund of state dollars. When they did it that way, $6,861 per Achievement School student compared to $6,353, a gap of slightly more than $500.

It's important to consider other factors too - like economies of scale. High schools have more students, so the per-student amount is likely to be less. At the other end of the scale, the school has some schools with very low enrollment - such as Sullivan Partnership, the school for homeless children; and DeSoto Elementary - that landed near the top of the list.

It's all in this document, where you will also find capital projects that, in some cases, caused the total numbers to be higher.

As reported before, the district is rolling out a teacher recruitment plan that will offer higher bonuses to teachers who work in the schools in most need of help. It's unclear how far this effort will go in curing some of the teacher vacancies that have the top brass taking teaching shifts at James and Kimbell Elementary, Woodson and Sulphur Springs K-8.

Achievement is designed to bring equity to the large school system, and it gets its legal authority from the district's racial equity policy of 2017.

The Tampa Bay Times will cover Tuesday's workshop and, in the event that the district chooses not to televise it, we will live-stream from Gradebook's Facebook page so the public can follow the conversation. We invite you to join the Facebook group, if you have not done so already.