Florida education budget should be revised, superintendents say

By Laila Kearney
FILE PHOTO - Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie speaks before a CNN town hall meeting at the BB&T Center, in Sunrise, Florida, U.S. February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Michael Laughlin/Pool

By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Florida school superintendents on Wednesday urged state legislators to hold a special session to revise the state's $88.7 billion budget, saying it bolsters school security after a deadly shooting in February but neglects basic education needs.

The Florida Association of District School Superintendents sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott, urging him to veto the education component of the fiscal 2018-2019 spending plan and send it back to lawmakers.

"You can't sacrifice your core education investment for school safety, you need both," association President Robert Runcie told Reuters. "The legislature is not doing this."

Florida's annual legislative session was nearing a close when the deadly Feb. 14 shooting attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shifted lawmakers' focus and led to the passage of a $400 million school safety plan.

Scott has not yet signed the budget, which the legislature approved on Sunday.

Asked to comment on the superintendents' request for a special session, Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said in an email: "The governor has been clear – the No. 1 priority right now is making our schools safer, and he's glad that the legislature provided funding for that specific reason."

Some education proposals lost funding as legislators sought dollars to supply schools with resource officers, expand mental health services, defend educational facilities and develop a program to arm teachers.

Education funding that covers teacher pay raises, school bus fuel and other operational costs was one area that took a hard hit, said Runcie, who is superintendent of Broward County schools, which includes the site of last month's shooting.

Last year, according to the superintendents association, the so-called base student allocation, was hiked about $43 per student. For the upcoming fiscal year, the legislature passed a mere $0.47 per pupil increase. At the start of the legislative session, Scott proposed an increase of $152 per student, Runcie said.

Runcie said the funding was insufficient. "We couldn't possibly maintain what we were delivering this year," he said.


(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Daniel Bases and Cynthia Osterman)