The Phoenix Flyer

Unresolved: Billions for public schools at stake as House and Senate struggle with state education budget

By: - March 3, 2022 7:57 pm
high school classroom, school, education

Classroom. Credit: Pixabay.

About a week out from the end of the 2022 legislative session, the state education budget — which funds Florida’s massive K-12 school system — is up in the air.

Thursday evening, the House and Senate budget negotiators were told they weren’t going to be meeting. But they must come together to finalize a 2022-23 state budget for Florida before the end of the session.

At issue: House and Senate lawmakers disagree on several sticking points involving hundreds of millions of dollars for public schools next school year.

Here are some of the incongruencies between the House and Senate when it comes to education programs:

1.) starting teacher salaries and veteran teacher pay;

2.) $15 minimum wage for district staffers, including bus drivers and cafeteria workers;

3.) A district-specific financial penalty as a result of mask mandates from earlier this school year.

Budget negotiators dealing with other concerns — such as health and human services, agriculture and tourism — have met several times this week. But budget negotiators for education have not met since Tuesday evening, raising questions on the status of state education finances for the next school year.

“Conference issues will bump to Chair (Jay) Trumbull and Chair (Kelli) Stargel,” according to an email from House staffers. For readers, that means budget negotiators were unable to agree on key funding issues for state education. Now, the two appropriation chairs in the House and Senate have to work it out.

For example, Gov. Ron DeSantis asked lawmakers to allot $600 million towards raising starting salaries for teachers, and the Senate agreed with that funding. But the House education budget has a much broader approach that adds up to $800 million for starting and veteran teachers.

In addition, higher education funding also is up in the air.

The legislation session is scheduled to end March 11.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.