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House seeks to boost public school funding

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In an initial step as lawmakers prepare to negotiate a 2018-2019 budget, House leaders Tuesday said they want to increase public-school funding by $100 per student.

The increase was included in a proposal released by House PreK-12 Appropriations Chairman Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah.

The House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on the proposal next week as part of an overall budget, with the full House taking up the spending plan the following week. That will set the stage for the House and Senate to try to negotiate a final budget before the scheduled March 9 end of the legislative session.

Diaz’s proposal also underscored a key difference between the House and Senate related to the use of increased property-tax revenues stemming from higher property values.

The Senate and Gov. Rick Scott want to use the increased revenues to help fund public schools, while the House has opposed the idea, calling it a tax increase.

Diaz’s proposal would roll back a tax rate, known as the required local effort, that is used to help fund schools. That would prevent the use of increased tax revenues from existing properties.

But Diaz’s proposal would allow the state to use increased revenues generated by new construction.

In all, he said the rollback would save $329.8 million for taxpayers.