Since 2008, significant reductions in state spending have caused serious cuts to public education in Duval County. School funding is a volatile and emotional issue, and it is complicated. In this brief, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund brings forward the facts: Duval County Public Schools does not have enough money to adequately implement state and federal mandates on top of the state constitution's requirement to provide a "uniform, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools" for all students.
School funding is determined by a complex series of federal, state and local funding formulas that are often not well-understood. Once the district receives the money, there are still numerous state or federal restrictions placed on how some of that money can be spent. 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 of unfunded state mandates (such as class size limits, expansion of standardized testing, and school-choice scholarships). The district does not have 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 district is 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 makes five key recommendations to 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.
Information, links and resources
Like the bibliography? Just want to learn more? Check out the links below for a comprehensive list of studies, articles, organizations and information about school funding in Duval County, Florida and the United States.