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Okaloosa County, School Budgeting

For years, individual schools in Okaloosa County have handled their own yearly budgets. But now there's been a change of policy, and that decision will be handled by the county school board.

The state sends a certain amount of money per student to the district. Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson says that provides an advantage for schools with a higher enrollment.

"If you have a school with large population they're able to do many more things for their students because they have more money. If you have a small school with a small population, they can't afford to do that."

In the past, principals set the budget for their schools themselves. Jackson says that difficult part of their job will end at the end of June.

"That's not what principals should be doing. Principals should be assisting teachers and students and their community. That's all they should be doing. Not worrying about this."

Under the new plan, the school board will set each school's budget for them, including which educational programs to run and which positions to fill. That, Jackson says, is very necessary to keep vital parts of the school running.

"Some schools haven't had their library open for two years. We have two media specialists left in this school district. Two."

Schools will still get to decide who fills those positions, and what to do with any extra money awarded. Each school also handles their own contracts for services, like trash pickup. That being handled by the district could save money, according to Jackson. She says the goal of the new system is to make sure students at every school have the same opportunities in education.

"What we're doing is ensuring through the allocation of resources that there is a standard of service in every single school."   

Superintendent Jackson wanted to make very clear that no programs will be cut from any school through the new program.