Superintendents want special session on school funding

School leaders say more money is needed for education

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida school superintendents Wednesday asked Gov. Rick Scott to call a special legislative session on education funding, saying a newly approved budget will not cover the rising costs of operating schools.

The request from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents came three days after lawmakers approved an $88.7 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Republican legislative leaders touted that the budget includes a funding increase of $101.50 per student for the next school year. But school superintendents argue that only a fraction of that amount --- 47 cents a student --- would be available for operational costs such as retirement contributions, employee health-care costs and utility bills.

The issue stems from a complicated formula the state uses to fund schools, with the operational costs reflected in what is known as the “base student allocation.”

A large part of the overall funding increase for schools went to school safety and mental health initiatives after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Broward County.

In a letter to Scott, Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie, the president of the superintendents  association, said the group appreciates the increased funding for school safety and mental health services. But Runcie wrote that money in the budget is “significantly inadequate” to meet day-to-day operating costs.

“Superintendents fully support the additional, much needed funds for safety and mental health,” Runcie wrote. “However, the limited additional funding in the BSA (base student allocation) will necessitate school districts to eliminate funding of other programs to meet the operational costs of our school districts.”

The Legislature formally sent the budget to Scott on Wednesday.