Lawmakers to start spending on Fla. school maintenance

Proposed budget deal reached would give public schools more than $100 million of PECO funds to fix ailing schools

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Lawmakers are going to start spending on school maintenance again. A multi-year dry spell of maintenance money has led many to say this is a long time coming.

Traditional public schools have been starving for maintenance money. A proposed budget deal reached would give them more than $100 million of Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO funds, to fix ailing schools.

The Senate budget chair credits the Senate president.

"He wants the state to be a partner with our local school districts to make sure that we are fixing leaky roofs and are leaving them in good shape for the students," said Sen. Joe Negron.

The proposal sounds great to public schools, which haven't received the PECO dollars since 2011.

About $50 million would be split among 67 school districts. Seven other smaller districts would receive nearly $60 million for buildings.

Wayne Blanton, with the Florida School Board Association, said the schools will take all the help they can get.

"We have a lot of older schools in Florida. Many schools are over 75 years old. We have schools that are over 100 years old and we have to start replacing those very, very soon," said Blanton.

Per-pupil funding will increase by almost 3 percent. The number is still short of the record high of $7,100 in 2007 and 2008.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner said the money is nice but not nearly enough.

"No way will it begin to cover the needs of just one county with many schools, so we need to do better in that area," said Joyner.

Charter schools -- which are considered public schools -- received $50 million. It was a big time regression from last year where they were allocated more than $90 million, compared to nothing for traditional public schools.

The budget can still be worked on before a final vote Friday but many expect the education portion won't be tweaked.

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