FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The School Board of Broward County met on Tuesday to discuss Broward County Public Schools’ next year’s budget which is based on a blend of federal, state and local funding.
The state ties the disbursement of some funds for public education to the number of students enrolled in each district. Superintendent Robert Runcie said there was a decline in enrollment of about 11,000 students.
“We need the kids back in school, not just for the money — because they belong in school,” Runcie said.
It’s unclear how much of the enrollment drop can be attributed to homeschooling during the coronavirus pandemic or to students leaving traditional public schools for charter or private schools.
Runcie said he is deeply concerned about Florida Senate Bill 48, which aims to create publicly-funded education savings accounts to fund private schooling. The bill merges five existing scholarship programs into two. The Florida Education Association opposes it because public schools are underfunded in Florida.
Sen. Manny Diaz, of Hialeah, is the sponsor of the bill, which has passed all three of its committee stops. Runcie said that over the next five years BCPS could lose about $600 million if SB 48 becomes law. He said that’s two-thirds of the funding from the state.
BCPS will have to share about $600 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021’s $130 billion for education. This is the third wave of federal aid. Previous funding from the federal government brought in about $260 million to Broward schools.
The traditional public schools have to share federal funding with charter schools.
Runcie said the share will help to fund new programs designed to help students who returned to school after their grades suffered, as they struggled to adapt to virtual learning during the schools’ lockdown.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing an increase in per-student funding of about 3%, but Runcie said he isn’t counting on it given the budgetary challenges in Tallahassee.
Runcie asked the public to be proactive and reach Florida lawmakers to demand that public education get more funding, and avoid voting for measures such as the one proposed in Florida SB 48.