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Florida lawmaker seeks to spend 80 percent of education funds in the classroom

The idea, part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ election campaign, raises questions about what “classroom spending purposes” really means.
Senate Education Committee chairman Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, speaks to reporters Feb. 21, 2019, in the Capitol. Diaz has refiled legislation to spend 80 percent of the state's primary education budget in the classroom. [The Florida Channel]
Published Sep. 24
Updated Sep. 25

For the second straight year, state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. is pushing one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ key education campaign platform planks — dedicating 80 percent of the state’s main school funding appropriations to “classroom spending purposes.”

Diaz’s SB 360, filed Monday, is identical to a bill the Education Committee chairman filed in the 2019 session. That version did not have a House companion and never received a single committee hearing.

The measure defines classroom spending as including:

• Salaries and bonuses, and supplies and materials, for classroom teachers;

• Materials, technology and tutoring for students;

• Salaries for additional classroom teachers and aides; and

• Classroom-based supplemental instruction activities.

The legislation emerges this year amid active conversation that the state must improve its teacher salaries. Diaz’s bill would keep money available to cover that cost, if a plan is passed.

However, classroom teachers are defined in law only as those K-12 educators leading students in daily instruction. The law does not include other positions, such as learning coaches, guidance counselors and prekindergarten teachers.

That definition has led to complaints from the non-classroom teachers when it comes to the Best and Brightest bonus, which also carries the same restriction, and could prove a stumbling block in the latest effort to boost pay.

RELATED: Not a Florida classroom teacher? No Best and Brightest for you.

The description of classroom spending raises other concerns, as well.

When DeSantis first proposed the concept — a spinoff of the “65 percent solution” that gained no traction more than a decade ago — many school officials and even some Republican lawmakers noted that many school expenses that directly affect student learning do not take place in the classroom.

Those include bus transportation, cafeteria meals, student health services and campus security. Each also is considered a priority, and runs into millions of dollars.

“This is clearly a bill that is going to need a lot more work. This is a starting point and a tip of the hat to governor’s desire (to get to 80 percent),” Diaz said when he first filed the bill a year ago.

RELATED: Bill filed to require 80 percent of school funding spent ‘in the classroom’


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