NEW YORK (Reuters) – After deep cuts in spending for Florida schools and other public programs following the Great Recession, outgoing Republican Governor Rick Scott this month proposed an $87.4 billion budget he says boosts spending on some depleted services to record levels.
Despite Scott’s meaty 2018-2019 budget recommendation, which is about $2.4 billion above current spending, advocates for Florida public education, environment and affordable housing remained skeptical the new plan would go far enough.
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“It doesn’t move Florida (schools) out from the bottom when compared to other states,” said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, the state’s teachers union.
Florida’s public school per-pupil spending sank from a peak of $7,126 in the 2007-2008 budget to a post-recession low of $6,217 for the 2011-2012 year.
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In his latest proposal, Scott recommended increasing funding to $7,176 per student, a $50 rise above record-high per-student funding. Florida has more than 2.7 million students enrolled in its public K-12 schools.
Pudlow said he welcomed the governor’s increases, but support for Florida education was still lagging far behind most of the United States. The nationwide per-student spending average was $11,392 in 2015, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data available.
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Adjusted for inflation, Pudlow pointed out, Scott’s budget puts Florida’s per-student spending at about $1,200 less than it was at its peak.
Scott proposed increasing public elementary and secondary school spending to about $14.71 billion from some $14.45 billion in the current fiscal year.
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Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said she was hopeful Scott’s proposal signaled a an attitude shift in the state capital toward public education financing, but the bill was...
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