Florida's K-12 Funding Formula
The Florida legislature is constitutionally responsible for ensuring that adequate funding for education is provided and that it is properly allocated even though funding derives from a combination of local, state and federal dollars.
The Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) was enacted in 1973 by the Florida Legislature as its method for funding public education in a manner that would "guarantee to each student in the Florida public education system the availability of programs and services appropriate to his or her educational needs."
Funding for the FEFP combines state funds - primarily generated from sales tax revenue - and local funds - generated from property tax revenue. It is important to note that the FEFP is only the centerpiece of the total funding for education. Funding for a variety of programs and services - such as school construction, workforce development and preschool programs - is provided in addition to the funds allocated through the FEFP.
To provide equal educational opportunities for all children, each component of the FEFP equation attempts to adjust education funding to meet the particular needs and conditions of each of Florida's 67 counties. During each legislative session, every component of the equation is subject to debate and adjustment by our legislators. Existing equation components may be amended, new components may be added and old or unpopular components may be deleted in response to the state's political and economic climate and in the ongoing effort to meet the changing needs of Florida's diverse population. --from the Florida School Boards Association. Click here for more information on the FEFP.
The 2011-2012 per pupil amount is $6,262. After years of repeated cuts, this figure takes funding levels back to 2004.
To find more information on the subjects listed below, please visit our Resource Room.
Does the Florida Lottery pay for public education? Voters passed the Florida Lottery to supplement the existing state education budget. It has since served to supplant money from the state. This year, the Lottery will not pay for even a single day of K-12 education. It now helps pay for college Bright Futures scholarships.
Is Florida 50th in the nation in school funding? According to the 2010 US Census, Florida ranks 50th in per capita spending on K-12 education and 41st in per pupil spending.
Are Florida schools ranked 5th in the nation? Education Week releases an annual "Quality Counts" supplement to its magazine. Every year the criteria change making it impossible to do year-to-year comparisons. In 2010, the editors ranked Florida 5th in creating education policy - not academic performance. However, according to a Miami Herald review of the report, "The Sunshine State ranked near the bottom nationally for its graduation rate. It also got failing marks when it came to state funding for public schools."
Are school budgets slashed because of the recession? Florida has chronically under-funded public education. At the peak of our state's growth and success, the per pupil funding was approximately $7,000 while the U.S. average was over $10,000.
Is my school district in financial trouble because my local school leaders are inefficient with their money? There are inefficiencies in all organizations and measures should always be taken to reduce waste. However, Florida is one of the few states with school districts concurrent with county boundaries. As such, we have 5 of the top 12 largest school districts in the nation. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, Florida spends more than 65% of funds in the classroom and is well below the national average for spending for administration.
Can Florida afford to raise revenues in a down economy? Florida lawmakers continue to raise local property taxes and fees to pay for the state's education obligation. Meanwhile, they give $5 billion annually in sales tax exemptions to special interests and corporate tax breaks to companies not based in Florida. During the 2011 Legislative Session, lawmakers and Governor Scott found an additional $309.6 million to give away in the form of revenue reductions and corporate tax breaks while slashing over 8% of school funding.
Would taxes hurt Florida businesses? According to the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Florida has the 2nd most regressive tax system in the nation. Large multi-state corporations are paying very little in taxes while smaller businesses based in Florida pay an unfair share. A broadening of the tax base would make our taxes more equitable and would actually reduce the taxes of the average Florida business.
Are union-negotiated teacher salaries too high? The statewide average teacher salary for all degree levels in 2009-2010 was approximately $46,462. This represents a decrease of $450 under the average teacher salary for 2008-2009. In 2009-2010, Florida ranked 43rd among the 50 states in average teacher salary and $8,357 below the national average. In 2011, the Florida Legislature cut teacher salaries by an additional 3% in order to balance the state's budget.
Would layoffs and furloughs of school teachers and employees help fill the shortfall? Florida has more than 323,780 full-time public school employees, including 189,429 instructional staff, making Florida's public school system one of the largest employers in the state. These employees have an enormous impact on their local economies. District and school administrators make up less than 3.5% of all public school employees.
What does it mean when politicians talk about "school choice"? School choice refers to Florida's voucher and charter school programs. Florida's "Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship" program allows corporations to divert their tax payment owed to Florida into a "scholarship fund." The fund, which takes 5% off the top for operating expenses, gives vouchers to qualifying low-income children to attend private, often religious, schools. These schools have no accountability to the state and are not required to show results or student test scores.
Charter schools receive tax dollars, as well. They administer the FCAT but are not held to the same requirements from the state as traditional public schools. For example, they can hold lotteries to accept students, can turn away students who are not good test takers, and keep the student funding allocation, even when the student leaves the school mid-year. Additionally, they are not required to uphold the constitutional mandate to meet class size requirements. In 2011, Florida politicians created a new breed of charter- the virtual charter school. These charters receive the same student funding allocation but are able to exist solely as an online or "virtual" school.
Charters and for-profit charter management organizations (CMOs) have been given statutory advantage by lawmakers and the green light for exponential expansion. When "choice" schools are allowed to make a profit off of the per pupil funding allocation, money intended for Florida children and their classrooms is lost. In the end, those making the profits have the real choice: who to educate and how to spend or keep public tax dollars. Citizens are left with a separate, unequal and unfair caste system funded by public dollars. To learn more about voucher and charter schools, visit our Resource Room.
Do charter schools do a better job than traditional public schools for less money? According to the Orlando Sentinel's review of Florida charter schools in 2011, "Charter schools, which account for only a fraction of the state's public schools, received half of all the F's when the state handed out its annual letter grades two weeks ago. Of all the failing grades given to public schools, 15 of 31 went to charters. The charters, often billed by proponents as a superior alternative to traditional schools, were seven times more likely than regular schools to get an F in the appraisal of the state's elementary and middle schools. Financed with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, charters also were more likely to earn D's and less likely to earn A's, B's or C's than regular public schools." In addition, the Florida Legislature cut traditional public schools out of the Public Education Capital Outlay program which pays for additions or repairs to aging buildings. The state's 350 charter schools will share $55 million, while the approximately 3,000 traditional schools will go without.