DeSantis seeks more money for public schools, less for colleges
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday released an education budget proposal for next year that includes record spending for public schools, but cut funding for universities.
DeSantis is calling on lawmakers to provide $ 23.9 billion for the K-12 system, an increase of $ 1.1 billion from the current year. The proposal would provide $ 8,000 in spending per student, an increase of nearly $ 200.
In an effort to retain educators amid a continuing teacher shortage, DeSantis wants to use $ 238 million in federal stimulus funds to give a second round of $ 1,000 bonuses to teachers and principals. Lawmakers approved the use of federal money for a first round of $ 1,000 bonuses during the 2021 legislative session, which ended in April.
“That’s over 175,000 people,” DeSantis said of the number of educators eligible to receive the bonuses.
DeSantis included education spending in an overall $ 99.7 billion budget proposal it unveiled on Thursday. Lawmakers will use the proposal as a starting point to negotiate a 2022-2023 budget during the legislative session that begins on January 11.
The governor announced parts of his education spending plan in November and reiterated them on Thursday. That included $ 600 million to pursue a plan to raise the minimum wage for teachers to $ 47,500 – a benchmark the state failed to meet.
“This is $ 50 million more than what we did in the last fiscal year. So we’re proud of that and we’re proud of the momentum we have there, ”DeSantis said, referring to $ 550 million in the current budget.
But the Florida Education Association’s teachers ‘union criticized DeSantis’ proposal for not targeting money to raise salaries for veteran teachers. Union president Andrew Spar said the proposal would not solve teacher shortages.
“In an age that calls for real leadership, when our public schools are in crisis, the governor is offering more of the same,” said Spar. “His proposal will not solve the massive shortage of teachers and support staff in Florida. It makes the students of our public schools fail.
Local officials could also increase the salaries of teachers and other school employees with a proposed $ 124 increase in what is known as the Basic Student Allowance.
A $ 20 million increase in school mental health funding and a $ 30 million increase in school safety spending were also included in Thursday’s budget rollout.
While DeSantis has touted an increase in funding for K-12 schools, its proposed spending plan would include a $ 100 million reduction in funding for state universities from the current year.
The governor is proposing $ 2.7 billion in operating funds for universities and would keep funding for state colleges at $ 1.3 billion.
Governor’s so-called “Freedom First” budget would also fully fund the Bright Futures scholarship program to the tune of $ 602 million. Funding for the program became a controversial topic during the 2021 legislative session, when lawmakers considered tying scholarship amounts to Bright Futures credits in the state budget, a proposal that ultimately failed and to which DeSantis opposes.
The proposal would also set aside $ 40 million to jumpstart a Bright Futures textbook allocation for fellows.
The governor, who frequently emphasizes alternatives to traditional four-year universities, also highlighted proposed funding for workforce education and skills training programs.
“Freedom First’s budget has over $ 530 million in workforce initiatives, programs, apprenticeships, things that really provide great opportunity for a lot of people across the state of Florida,” but also continue to support our economy and make Florida a great place. Especially for logistics and manufacturing, where we are starting to do very well, ”said DeSantis.
DeSantis also reiterated Thursday that its budget did not include the increase in tuition fees at state colleges and universities.