Fort Walton Beach schools face funding concerns
FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WEAR) —
House Bill 7069 passed both sides of the legislature on Monday night. The bill would bring around big changes to how federal money funds public schools in our state.
The original bill was six pages long and all about incentivizing exceptional teacher. The bill, which passed the senate on the last day of the session added 277 pages and will have a huge effect on your child's school.
Superintendents like Mary Beth Jackson have gotten together to fight this, but they lost.
"If you are passing that type of legislation that late in the session, you really don't expect people to be able to read it and react to it, and it was stunning to me," Jackson said.
One of the biggest policy reforms in the 278-page bill are the bills cuts to the cost of spending per student by $27 dollars.
Another one of the changes, the state now controls title one funding. Title one funds help kids in low-income, low-performing schools.
Currently, the money is dispersed by the school districts themselves to schools who need it the most. Once this bill becomes law, the state will mandate where the money goes. The mandate includes providing money to better performing schools and charter schools.
"Eighty to Eighty-five percent of your budget is in personnel. It's going to be painful. We are doing everything in our power to keep it as far away from the classroom as we can," Jackson said.
It also means more cuts to sports and after school programs.
"That title one funding that used to help us with those other things, now it's being shrunk and now we have to find a way creatively to either pull back on some of those great programs or take away the programs altogether," said Michelle Salzman with the Florida PTA.
Cathy McNabb has a long history with the district. She and her children graduated from Okaloosa schools. Her grand kids attend an elementary school in Crestview.
"Somebody's baby isn't going to get what they need," she told Channel Three News about HB 7069,"and I just don't agree with that."
It gives her pause as she thinks about the next election cycle.
"It'll make me more aware of how my local representatives vote and how they feel about certain situations and our education system in Okaloosa County. So, I really have to pay attention to what's going on," McNabb said.
The bill has reached the desk of the governor; his signature will make it law.
"We feel that [the bill] is unfair to current public schools and we're hoping and going to encourage our governor to please consider vetoing HB 7069.
These changes will affect all 67 school districts in Florida. Santa Rosa County officials and Okaloosa County officials told us their schools would take about a five percent hit off of their budget totals in order to make up for the loss in title one funding to some schools. Santa Rosa County says it would have to eliminate public Pre-K and reduce bus routes.
The governor has 15 days to sign or veto HB 7069. It he refuses to take action; the bill becomes law.