Senate trumps House’s $1 billion school boost with more cash for classroomsby John Kennedy | February 7th, 2012
The deep, $1.3 billion budget cut imposed last year on Florida public schools would be largely offset with a similarly sized increase in classroom dollars proposed Tuesday by the Florida Senate.
Senate Pre-K-12 education budget chief David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said he was looking restore school funding this election year after many districts absorbed thousands of layoffs and program cuts when per-pupil dollars were dragged to their lowest level in six years last fall, by budget-slashing lawmakers.
“It’s not 2005-6, but it sure is good,” Simmons said Tuesday.
The Senate has been slow to release details of its budget proposal and Tuesday mostly just dribbled out its education package. The House, by contrast, is poised to approve its full $69.2 billion spending plan later this week.
But for starters, the Senate has trumped the House in school funding. The House is recommending a $1 billion boost, which amounts to a 2 percent increase per-student. The Senate plan tops 3 percent and would bring per-student dollars up an average $192.70 — about $51 more than what the House is offering.
For Florida’s 28 colleges, the Senate proposed a 3 percent tuition boost. But for universities, the Senate appears to be more closely alligned with Gov. Rick Scott — who has dismissed a call from university presidents for higher tuition.
The Senate’s proposal calls for no base tuition boost. The House would give Florida’s 11 public universities authority for an 8 percent base increase that can be raised to 15 percent for universities, with approval from the State University System’s Board of Governors.
Even with the the Senate snub, universities could still seek as much as a 15 percent hike from the board. But if Scott digs in, it’s likely the governor-appointed board may be reluctant to OK higher tuition.
The Senate proposal cuts university dollars by 4 percent — about double the cut leveled by the House. Both sides, though, look on track to continue a trend in which state dollars for Florida universities have dropped 24 percent since 2008. Florida’s average tuition level ranks 45th in the nation — and administrators have been clamoring for more authority to shift costs onto students.