“We don’t have enough resources to support the students who need mental health, case management, additional academic supports. While the district is well intentioned, without appropriate pay for teachers, without appropriate funding for student support, we cannot get the kind of results that we need. The funding formulas from the state are not sufficient to meet those needs.”

The Florida Education Finance Program is the funding formula adopted in 1973 to allocate funds appropriated to school districts for K-12 public school operations. Funds are dispersed to each school district based on student enrollment, and Florida has a fixed base funding amount per student ($4,203.95 for FY2018).

The formula assigns a base cost to the education of a student with no special needs or services. It then accounts for the additional cost of educating specific categories of students (ELL, students with disabilities, CTE programs) both through program-specific allocations and by applying multipliers to the base amount to generate supplemental funding for certain students.

A recent $485 million budgetary increase amounted to only 47 cents per student, meaning some districts will struggle to cover expenses such as higher retirement benefits, growing utility costs, any type of employee salary raises or expanded educational offerings. Meanwhile, local school districts pack students into programs that receive extra funding and require more administrative staffs to manage.

Adding to the problem this year, following the tragic school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a large portion of the increase was set aside strictly for improving school security and mental health services.

Florida expects school districts to contribute revenue to the funding of public schools. The amount each district is expected to raise is based on a combination of its property values and a defined share of the amount calculated by the state to be necessary to educate Florida’s students.

School districts in Florida may receive local revenue from property taxes and from sales surtaxes. In addition to property taxes, school districts and counties in Florida may impose sales surtaxes for school infrastructure expenses.

Some parents and students think part of the formula called the District Cost Differential is taking tax money away from school districts in Florida and redistributing them to only a dozen counties. Students end up with fewer supplies, teachers are denied additional salary increases, and affected districts struggle to stay afloat while taxpayer money is shifted to assist other counties.

Many are calling for a reform to the formula.