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Change in school funding gets House backing

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The top House budget-writing committee Wednesday approved a bill that would revamp a key part of a formula used to divvy up money among school districts.

While wonky, the issue has implications for school districts across the state because changing the formula could lead to some districts getting more money -- and others taking financial hits.

The proposal involves revamping the District Cost Differential, part of the broader formula known as the Florida Education Finance Program.

The District Cost Differential is supposed to help measure how much it costs to hire teachers and other school employees in different parts of the state.

The current District Cost Differential involves using a price-level index, but the House bill would change to a “comparable wage index,” which would look at the wages of similarly educated workers to employees of public schools.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the bill (PCB APC 20-05) on Wednesday.

Bill sponsor Chris Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who chairs the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, said the proposed change is based on a study conducted by a consulting firm that looked at the methodology of the so-called DCD.

Rep. Joe Geller, an Aventura Democrat who is chairman of the Miami-Dade County legislative delegation, praised the bill, saying that revising the DCD is one of the delegation’s top priorities for this year’s session.

“It’s very important to my community,” he said.