The Florida Legislature didn’t waste any time getting the budget plan it approved on Sunday to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott. The $88.7 billion appropriation and implementing bills were delivered to Governor’s Office Wednesday.
Scott now has 15 days to review the spending proposal for the 2018-2019 fiscal year and decide what action to take.
The delivery of the budget to Scott comes amid calls from the state’s school superintendents for a veto of the spending plan pertaining to public schools. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents sent a letter to Scott on Wednesday asking him to veto the education portion of the budget and bring legislators back to the Capitol for a special session to approve more money for the state’s K-12 system.
The spending plan approved by the Legislature includes $21.1 billion for public schools with per-student spending totalling $7,408. That’s an increase of $101, but much of that increase is due to the school safety money.
The budget includes $400 million for improving security and mental health services at schools across the state. The money was in response to the school shootings that occurred in Parkland four weeks ago that killed 17 students and teachers.
When you factor out the school safety spending, that translates into an increase of funding for public schools at 47 cents per student.
In his original budget proposal, Scott called on the Legislature to increase spending per student by $152.45 and that didn’t include using any of the suggested increase on school safety.
“Superintendents fully support the additional, much needed funds for safety and mental health,” Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie wrote to the governor. But he says the limited additional funding for education “will necessitate school districts to eliminate funding of other programs to meet the operational costs of our school districts.”
Runcie is the president of the superintendents’ association and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the shootings took place, is part of his district.
Asked to respond to the superintendents’ letter, a spokesman for Scott defended the education budget.
“In this year’s budget, K-12 public schools are provided hundreds of millions of dollars and the flexibility needed to make each school safer while still increasing Florida’s per-pupil funding to a record high,” said Scott’s deputy communications director, McKinley Lewis. “Since Governor Scott has taken office, total operational funding for Florida schools is up 27 percent, while the amount of flexible funding to school districts has grown by 21 percent. Student enrollment has only grown seven percent in the same amount of time. The Governor has been clear – the number one priority right now is making our schools safer, and he’s glad that the Legislature provided funding for that specific reason.”
Scott has until March 29 to take action on the budget.