Florida spent 22 percent less in total state school funding per student in 2015 than it did in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, joining 28 other states in failing to meet pre-recession funding levels. These findings are included in A Punishing Decade for School Funding, a new report from the nonpartisan, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The Florida Policy Institute (FPI) notes that this problem is compounded by the state’s failure to increase teachers’ base salaries and lack of investment in maintenance and repairs for school districts.
“A well-educated and healthy workforce, along with modernized roads and bridges, affordable housing and other critical investments, are the keys to economic growth and to attracting businesses to any state,” said Joseph Pennisi, executive director of FPI. “Florida is shortchanging its future workforce, and in the long run, it will be our communities and our economy that suffer.”
The report finds that from 2008 to 2015, combined state and local school funding in Florida dropped by 25 percent, more than any other state, and state funding dropped by 22 percent. Both figures reflect an adjustment for inflation over the period. Current per-student funding would have to increase from $7,297 to $8,147 to be comparable to the 2008 funding level.
School districts are consistently underfunded for school maintenance and repair in Florida. Further, although state policymakers recognize the importance of high-quality teachers to student achievement, one-time bonuses and supplements have been funded instead of base salary increases. Some eligibility requirements for the bonuses bear no relationship to quality teaching.
Deep state cuts to K-12 force local school districts to scale back educational services or raise more local revenue to fill the gap, or both, says CBPP. Ultimately, underfunding education may jeopardize future generations’ ability to succeed in a 21st century workforce and support a family.
Pennisi also noted the importance of K-12 education as an equalizer for children currently living in poverty.
“A sound education enables these children to pursue postsecondary opportunities, whether academic or technical, that result in employability and higher wages,” he added.
The Florida Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting widespread prosperity through timely, thoughtful and objective analysis of state policy issues affecting economic opportunity.