Two local superintendents held a press conference on Thursday to criticize the state's proposed education budget, which is currently the focus of ongoing negotiations in Tallahassee.
The proposed budget calls for reducing funding for public schools for the 2017-2018 school year. If passed, about $27 fewer dollars per student would be allocated to public schools next year, according to figures from April 30.
Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas and Santa Rosa County Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick criticized the proposal and urged their stakeholders — parents and teacher included — to reach out to legislators to voice their opposition.
"That kind of a cut is going to represent a funding cut for every student in the state of Florida," Thomas said. "It is going to impact our students, and it is going to impact our classrooms."
Funding statewide through the Florida Education Finance Program — the main source of funding for public schools in kindergarten through 12th grade — was $4,160.71 per student for this school year. Under the proposed budget, that would be cut to $4,133.64 in the coming school year.
"I can never recall a year when we've had to cut the base student allocation and it was not due to economic reasons," said Thomas, who has more than three decades of experience as an educator, including nine as the ECSD superintendent. "It's not about a recession, it's not about the economy. It's about choices."
While the House proposal would cut education spending, the Senate version offered an increase in funding. Gov. Rick Scott's proposal also called for increasing education funding.
"The governor and the Senate, they figured it out," Wyrosdick said. "It's a matter of priorities from the House perspective."
While Wyrosdick's district is slated to get about $495,000 from the state because of a projected increase of approximately 800 students, the amount of funding that would come under the proposed budget would not cover all of the expenses that accompany those students.
Wyrosdick estimated those expenses — including medical coverage and transportation — to be more than $1.5 million. The superintendent said the district's required payment into the Florida Retirement System will be an increase of about $511,000 alone.
"It's the whole picture of, why would they do that?" Wyrosdick said. "It doesn't make sense."