Looking ahead to the spring session: What's at stake for schools?
The Florida legislative session is always an important time for public education. This year, that’s particularly true, with budget cuts looming from the COVID-19 economic downturn. Ahead of session, which starts March 2 and ends April 30, the Duval County School Board has decided on its platform for lawmakers.
Below, we explain more about the DCPS legislative platform, which has been approved by the School Board, so you can better understand the issues and share your voice as part of the process.
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The big picture
The story of this legislative session will be COVID, COVID, COVID. The coronavirus pandemic has caused a big downturn in revenues from sales taxes, which is one of the main sources of public education funding.
Sadly, the big picture of this legislative session is that budget cuts to public education are likely. Against this backdrop, Duval County Public Schools is asking lawmakers to preserve key areas of funding and create temporary alternative accountability for schools that have been struggling to keep students learning given the disruptions of the pandemic.
Four priorities for DCPS
1. Provide more funding for career prep courses
DCPS has made significant investments in career preparation, offering a wide range of career prep programs including engineering, programming, welding and automotive, just to name a few. Career prep courses are more expensive to provide, but state’s current funding formula doesn’t provide more funding for them. That’s why DCPS is asking the state to adjust the funding formula to provide more resources for these courses.
2. Providing guidance for COVID and state testing
In spring 2020, the Florida Department of Education canceled state tests as schools had to shift suddenly to virtual learning at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, state leaders have signaled they’re likely to go forward with spring testing. Still, there’s a lot of discussion about how the test results will be used.
DCPS is asking the Legislature to create a temporary alternative accountability system that would accomplish several things:
- Still provide for state testing for the purposes of helping teachers understand students’ progress and where there are learning gaps.
- Set a new baseline for school accountability, so that next year, test scores would be compared to this year, rather than pre-pandemic scores from 2019.
- Allow schools in turnaround that managed significant gains despite the challenges of the pandemic to exit state accountability.
3. Compensate the district for administrative services for school choice
School districts in Florida provide a number of administrative services to support private schools, charter schools and homeschooled students. Those services include ESE support, access to public school sports programs and student learning evaluations. Right now, the district is not compensated for these services. The district is requesting a flat fee for these services, similar to what Step Up for Students, a state agency, receives to help support publicly funded scholarships for private schools.
4. Protect funding for teacher salaries
Last year, the Legislature approved a generous increase in starting teachers’ salaries and devoted some funding to raising veterans’ teachers salaries, to a much smaller degree. This year, budget cuts for public education as a whole are looming – so the district is asking that lawmakers stay away from cutting funding specifically for teachers’ salaries, especially since those increases have added to personnel costs.
Learn more about your representatives in the Florida Legislature and find out how to contact them in our Advocacy Center.