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New study to “Demystify School Funding” looks at Duval County Public Schools

  New study to "Demystify School Funding" looks at Duval County Public Schools

Jacksonville Public Education Fund releases policy briefing

 

Jacksonville, FL - In 2011, the state of Florida cut 1.4 billion from public education; in Duval County, the board wrestled with a $91 million shortfall. Further reductions will make 2012 no easier. With the Florida Legislature less than a month away from its 2012 session, funding for public schools is at the top of the state agenda.

 

School funding is a volatile and emotional issue, and it is complicated. That's why today the Jacksonville Public Education Fund released a new policy paper, "Demystifying school funding: Where it comes from, how it's spent and what we can do to improve."

"Even with the governor's proposed addition of $1 billion to school funding next year, Duval County Public Schools will still face a shortfall of more than $50 million," said Trey Csar, President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

This study attempts to bring forward a simple and clear-headed analysis to answer a few important questions:

   - Does the district have enough money?

   - Is the state doing its part to adequately fund schools?

   - Is the district doing its part to spend the money it has responsibly?

"Our goal is to present the community with a clear explanation of how school funding works and provide action steps that they can take to improve the situation," said Cindy Edelman, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

In 2011-2012, Duval County Public Schools has local authority over only about 61% of its budget, known as the general fund. The other 39% is restricted by law to be spent on state or federally mandated programs.

On top of the 39% of the budget already set aside for state or federal mandates, the district will be required to spend more than $50 million this year out of its general fund to implement a number ofunfundedstate mandates (such as class size limits, expansion of standardized testing, and school-choice scholarships).

Based on the best research, JPEF found that the districtdoes nothave enough money to adequately implement all these mandates on top of their requirement to provide a "uniform, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools" for all students as required by the state constitution.Between the ongoing cuts and the additional burden of unfunded mandates, the state is not doing its part to adequately fund education at a level that matches its expectations.

On the local side, a recent independent audit by the nonprofit Education Resource Strategies (ERS) found that Duval County Public Schools spends its budget as efficiently as any other district in the nation that ERS has studied in terms of minimizing overhead and getting money to schools.In their final conclusion, ERS found that the districtis spending its money responsibly, but there is some room for improvement in spending it more effectively.

The combined impact of decreased funding and increased legislative mandates over the past several years leaves the district overextended in its efforts to provide a well-rounded, high quality public education that meets the needs of all students. JPEF makesfive key recommendationsto stabilize education funding and increase the effectiveness of current spending:

For the community

- Oppose any further reductions to education funding at the state level.

- Lobby for revisions to unfunded mandates, including class size limits.

- Be willing to engage in an open-minded discussion about increasing local revenue.

For the district

- Consider consolidating small, under-utilized elementary schools as outlined by ERS.

- Explore restructuring school-level front office positions and resource classes.

 

For the state

-­ Discontinue further reductions to education funding at the state level.

- Reduce or eliminate unnecessary unfunded mandates.

-­ Be willing to engage in an open-minded discussion about increasing state revenue.

 

To download the full report, read additional information and find links to take action, go to www.jaxpef.org.