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Florida’s Boost to K-12 Education Welcome, But a Gap Remains

December 9, 2013 at 10:41 AM

In a letter to state school superintendents encouraging them to raise teacher pay, Florida Gov. Rick Scott boasted that the state’s budget this year includes “the most state funding for education ever,” and that Florida’s increase in per-student spending this year — $263 — ranked second among states for annual increases in our report on K-12 school spending.

That’s welcome news for a state that slashed spending on education and other public services as its revenues plummeted during and after the recession, including at the start of Gov. Scott’s administration.  But, the renewed investments haven’t been enough to recover fully from such steep cuts.  In fact, Florida’s per-student spending remains below its 2007-08 level, adjusting for inflation (see chart).

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Meanwhile, the state’s school-age population has continued to grow; there are 11,000 more K-12 students in Florida this year than in 2007-08.

Florida isn’t alone in digging out of a school funding hole.  As our recent report shows, at least 34 states are providing less funding per student for the 2013-14 school year than they did before the recession, and where funding has risen — as in Florida — it has generally not fully offset cuts in past years.

Florida will need to continue to commit state funds to schools to make additional progress in reversing such deep cuts.  Federal aid to schools is declining, and local governments generally can’t make up for the deep cuts in state aid, since property tax revenues — the main source of local funding for schools — remain depressed by the housing bubble’s implosion, which is now fully accounted for in local property tax collections.


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