December 6, 2023

Education Department to Seek Budget Boost

The Florida Department of Education plans to request nearly $24 billion during next year’s legislative session, an increase of about $880 million over the current fiscal year’s budget.

Of that, $22.2 billion is eyed for operating the public-school and state-college systems and $1.8 billion would go toward capital-outlay expenditures, such as building projects.

A projected increase of 45,272 students next school year spurred the department to ask for a nearly $317 million increase in the Florida Education Finance Program, or FEFP, the main funding source for public schools.

Suzanne Pridgeon, deputy commissioner in the department’s Division of Finance and Operations, said the proposed FEFP increase would account for a $157 boost in per-student funding, bringing it to $8,374 per pupil.

Pridgeon gave the State Board of Education an overview of the request during a meeting Thursday.

“The department’s increased budget prioritizes the following: school safety, because it’s absolutely critical that students come home safely at the end of the day; teacher recruitment and retention, because we know the role a high-quality teacher plays in students’ academic success; and workforce education to ensure there are various pathways to enter a high-wage career,” Pridgeon said.

The proposed budget would include $250 million in school-safety funding, an increase of $40 million over the current year. Funding for mental-health initiatives also would see an increase of $20 million, to $160 million.

In an effort to continue bolstering teacher recruitment and retention, the request includes $800 million to continue raising teacher salaries. Education officials also are seeking $1.5 million to move forward with creating the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation at Miami Dade College.

The institute was approved as part of legislation this year.

The department is asking for nearly $614.5 million for the Bright Futures scholarship program, a decrease of about $6.4 million over the current year attributed to a “workload reduction” for the scholarships.

The legislative session will start in March.

Tags: News Service of Florida

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