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Public education in Florida

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K-12 Education in Florida
State Superintendent: Eric J. Smith
Number of students: 2,668,156<cite_reference_link>
Number of teachers: 175,006
Teacher/pupil ratio: 1:15.2
Number of school districts: 76
Number of schools: 4,212
Graduation rate: 75%<cite_reference_link>
Per-pupil spending: $8,887<cite_reference_link>
See also
Public education in Florida
Florida Department of Education
Florida school districts
List of school districts in Florida
The Florida public school system (prekindergarten-grade 12) operates within districts governed by locally elected school boards members and superintendents. Florida has 67 school districts.

The Florida state constitution requires that the state offer free and "adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders." Additionally, by 2010 the Florida Legislature requires that prekindergarten through grade 3 classrooms not exceed 18 students, grades 4 through 8 not exceed 22 students, and grades 9-12 not exceed 25 students.<cite_reference_link>

School revenues, expenditures and budget

See also: Florida state budget
Florida's education costs are 1/3 of the state budget

The state of Florida had an approximately $65.5 billion budget for FY 2009, of that education was approximately a third of the total budget, $20.5 billion.<cite_reference_link> In 2009, in light of a national and state economic decline, state officials eliminated $466 million in education spending. Additionally, according to the 2008 Deficit-Elimination Package, they presented an option for school administrators to volunteer for pay cuts and limited the severance of teachers and administrators to one year. Unfortunately, for schools in the state of Florida the state may not be eligible for the $3 billion education funds from the Federal Economic Stimulus Package.<cite_reference_link>

Additionally, in 2010 Florida approved of one bond measure to help increase funding to public schools.

The cost per pupil is $9,035, ranking 39th in the nation according the Census Bureau 2007-2008 report.<cite_reference_link>

Impact of budget woes

  • In 2009 state officials eliminated $466 million in education spending due to declining revenue. Cuts included $365 million in K-12 education money and $100 million in non-classroom areas. Non-classroom areas includes school transportation, instructional materials and virtual school enrollment.<cite_reference_link>
  • The 2008 Deficit-Elimination Package included an option for school administrators to volunteer for pay cuts and limited the severance of teachers and administrators to one year.
  • On July 1, 2009, officials announced that the state's budget crisis has forced the state to eliminate summer school for 2009.<cite_reference_link>
  • Florida has a total of approximately $27,372,358,684 in annual revenues and $22,887,023,787 in elementary and secondary education expenditures.<cite_reference_link>
  • Orange County school district is facing an approximately $240 million for the upcoming school year in light of declining sales and property tax revenue.<cite_reference_link> In July 2009 the Orange County School Board rejected a property tax increase in a 4-3 vote that would yield and extra $24 million a year for the school district.<cite_reference_link>
  • Miami-Dade school district cut $289 million from its budget in 2009 but still needs to eliminate $49 million more in order to balance the budget.<cite_reference_link>

Personnel salaries

Florida's school superintendents make impressive salaries in comparison to other states. For example, one superintendent is reported to make $298,756 a year.<cite_reference_link>

According to a May 2008 report by the Florida Department of Education, the average salary of a public school teacher in the 2007-08 school year was approximately $46,922, a $1,626 (3.6 percent) increase from 2006-07. In the 2006-07 school year the average salary was $45,296. In 2003 the average salary was approximately $40,598.

Monroe, Collier, Broward and Dade school districts have the highest teacher salaries in the state ranging from $50,000 to as high as $54,083 a year.<cite_reference_link>

Teacher contracts

In the state of Florida, teachers are usually hired on annual contracts. After a span of three years, teachers are typically awarded "professional service contracts," commonly known as tenure. Tenure offers special protections from firing, for example during layoffs and budget cuts. However, in recent years, the practice has come under scrutiny because some argue it makes it hard to fire "bad teachers" or has a tendency to "push out young teachers." Supporters of the practice argue that tenure helps draw people into teaching and that getting rid of the current system won't guarantee that firing decisions are based on "quality or need."<cite_reference_link>

Merit pay

In 2007 the state of Florida instituted the Merit Award Program (MAP), the state's performance pay program. The program was the first merit pay program for teachers in the nation. The program offers bonuses based mostly on the performance of a teacher's students on the annual standardized tests.S.B. 1226, the Merit Award legislation, was signed into law by the governor on March 29, 2007. According to the approved legislation it required that district school boards adopt the Merit Award Program plan in order to received funding, additionally it required that districts administered end-of-course exams to analyze performance. The bill also included a "reversion of funds that are not distributed when district or charter school chooses not to adopt plan."<cite_reference_link> MAP replaced the Special Teachers are Rewarded (STAR) program.<cite_reference_link>

The program, however, has been largely unpopular among teachers. According to teachers the competition for bonus money destroys teamwork. They argue that the money used for bonuses should instead go towards across-the-board pay raises.<cite_reference_link><cite_reference_link> Teachers argue that teaching is not a competitive activity and instead should be a "cooperative activity." Additionally, Florida teachers said that they simply don't like basing the evaluations on the FCAT because each year they get a "different kind of class."<cite_reference_link> In 1985 the Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the implementation of a merit program.<cite_reference_link>

  • In June 2009 Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law a bill that reduced the bonus pay for teachers who obtain national board certification. Teachers will still received 10% bonuses but will no longer receive an additional 10% bonus for mentoring other teachers.<cite_reference_link>
  • A February 2008 St. Petersburg Times investigation revealed that about 75% of the 5,000 teachers in 2007 who received merit pay were located in Hillsborough County's most affluent schools. On the other hand 3% of teachers that received the merit pay worked in the district's lowest income schools. The results, according to the study, raises questions about how fair the program is to teachers.<cite_reference_link>

Role of unions

  • In March 2008, the statewide school union, Florida Education Association, threatened to sue after state officials announced a possible increase in funds for the state’s corporate tax credit scholarship program which provides financial aid to students transferring to alternative public or private schools.<cite_reference_link>
  • The teachers union previously challenged "opportunity scholarship program," which provides aid to students attending failing schools to transfer to alternative public or private schools. In 2006, a court ruling ended the private school option of the program. After the 2008 announcement, the union stated that if programs triples in five years they may also take the corporate tax credit program to court.<cite_reference_link>

List of local Florida school unions:

Role of school boards

The school board controls school property, establishes, organizes, and operates the schools of the district, including: establishing schools, adopting enrollment plans, providing for school elimination and consolidation, cooperating with school boards of adjoining districts in maintaining schools, maintaining the school year schedule and other more specific duties as outlined in the Florida statute.<cite_reference_link>

It also operates, controls and supervises the district's public schools as well as determines the rate of school district taxes, with the option of two or more school districts operating and financing educational programs together.

Under Art. I, Sec. 24 for the Florida constitution, all board meetings where there will be official acts taken or where public business will be discussed should be open to the public, except for certain meetings that the officials deem closed.<cite_reference_link>

Taxpayer-funded lobbying

See also: Florida government sector lobbying

"Lobbying" encompasses more than arguing before the legislature. For school districts, lobbying can mean hosting legislative breakfasts for legislators, belonging to a government sector lobbying associations, or any other attempts to influence elected officials.

Taxpayer-funded lobbying (Sunshine Review) is the practice of government entities using public funds to lobby. This occurs at all levels of government: it can be at the federal level or occur at local level with cities and counties, for example. These activities are hard to track because of the broad nature of lobbying, among other reasons. The issues lobbied for by governments can be diverse, but school lobbying typically deals with issues close to the school district or school board.

In July 2009, Sunshine Review submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to the 27 Florida school districts with lobbyists registered for 2009 with the Florida legislature.<cite_reference_link> The results of the information requests are included in Florida school districts lobbying totals. (For information on the project or to start your own, see the project page.)

27 Florida school districts have registered lobbyists,<cite_reference_link> and at least 52 school districts are members of the Florida School Boards Association, the main education government sector lobbying organization.<cite_reference_link> Therefore, it seems that most schools lobby.

Organizations have lobbying priorities which center around issues that are close to the group. For schools, this can include school choice bills, property tax and mill issues, and policies relating to school grades, such as FCAT scores. Other school issues include class size and school calendar length.

Schools spend money on lobbying on a few things. First, schools contract out lobbying duties to outside firms. The contract itself commits the district to paying a set amount for the services of the firm. Once a lobbyist is before the legislature or other government body, travel and other expenses will be reported on lobbying activity reports, and either the school district or the lobbying firm itself covers these expenses.

Hosting a legislative breakfast or get-together for elected officials is for the purpose of creating a relationship.<cite_reference_link> This is considered lobbying because the reason for a relationship is influencing legislation. Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations are organizations that represent many individual entities and advocate on their behalf. School districts or school officials pay membership dues to the associations. Additionally, the members pay any fees and expenses related to attending conferences hosted by the associations.

On June 10, 2009, Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law a bill that prevents taxpayer funded organizations from using taxpayer money on political advertisements. The law takes effect July 1, 2009 but would still allow school boards, cities and counties to distribute ballot information so long as it is "factual."<cite_reference_link>


See also: Evaluation of Florida school district websites
  • In June 2009, a Florida circuit court judge ruled that "a man has no right to have access to thousands of names, addresses and telephone numbers of employees and their dependents enrolled in the Manatee County School District’s health insurance plan." Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas said the information is exempt under Florida law and cannot be requested. The ruling comes in light after Joel Chandler made a public records request for health insurance information from all the Florida school districts.<cite_reference_link>
  • In early 2009, Sen. Mike Fasano sponsored Senate Bill 468 is sponsored. The bill proposes to exempt personal identifying information regarding the health and benefit coverage of public school employees from the Sunshine Law. The transparency legislation was proposed in reaction to the outcry that arose after Joel Chandler requested the information.<cite_reference_link>
  • In May 2009, Polk County court judge ruled that Wes Bridges, the Polk County School District's lawyer, was guilty of violating the state's public records law despite the "admirable" attempt. Bridges pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge and was ordered to pay $275.50 in fine and court costs.<cite_reference_link> Bridges was charged on April 17 2009 after a complaint was filed stating that the attorney made continuous excuses for withholding public records after Joel Chandler submitted his request.<cite_reference_link>


A 2009 study, Leaders and Laggards, conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for a Competitive Workplace, Frederick M. Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Center for American Progress, gave Florida: "D" in academic achievement; "C" in truth in advertising about student proficiency; "C" in rigor of standards; "D" in post-secondary and workforce readiness; "A" in for its teacher workforce policies; "A" in data quality.<cite_reference_link>


See also: Public record requests meet with confusion in central Florida

Academic performance

Public schools

On June 18, 2009 the Florida Department of Education released the 2008-09 grades for the 2,954 public schools across the state. Every year, schools are giving a letter grade. An "A" or "B" grade is considered "high-performing," whereas an "F" grade is considered "failing" and the lowest grade a school can receive.<cite_reference_link>

In 2009, 1,822 earned an "A," 495 earned a "B," 420 earned a "C," 173 earned a "D," and 44 earned an "F." Compared to the 2007-08 school year, 237 more schools received an "A," 47 fewer schools received a "B," 145 fewer schools received a "C," 18 more schools received a "D," and 1 fewer school received an "F."<cite_reference_link>

School Year Grade A Grade B Grade C Grade D Grade F Total # of schools
2008-09 1,822 495 420 173 44 2,954
2007-08 2,059 448 275 191 43 3,016

In 1998 Florida schools implemented the "Free and Reduced Lunch Program" for low income Hispanic students. In 1998 they were scoring 187 on NEAP reading scores, but in 2008 the grades had improved to 218, roughly increasing by 3 grade levels.<cite_reference_link>

Board of Education lowers passing grade

In 2012, the Board of Education decided to lower the passing grade for the written portion of standardized testing during an emergency meetings.<cite_reference_link> This was after it was shown that only 30 percent of the class would pass after roughly 80 percent passing the previous year. This is a result of enacting tougher tests for the students, which is why the Board decided not to let schools drop more than one letter grade for the year.

Charter schools

A report by the Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes revealed in June 2009 that Florida charter schools may be falling behind the state's public schools.<cite_reference_link> The four-year study analyzed standardized math and reading scores. Although, Florida charter schools resulted only in fair results, the report revealed that students in charter schools seemed to perform below average during their first two years, however in the third year the results revealed that charter school students excelled beyond public school students. In the fourth year, students at both schools revealed similar scores. The initial drop in performance, said Lynn Norman-Teck, spokesperson for the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, is attributed to the fact that charter schools are typically a "last resort" for students struggling in school.<cite_reference_link>

State Budget Solutions’ Education Study: “Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working”

State Budget Solutions’ examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates, and average ACT scores. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. Download the full report here: Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working.

See National Chart to compare data from all 50 states.

State Spending on Education vs. Academic Performance 2012

State 2011 Total Spending<cite_reference_link> 2011 Education Spending<cite_reference_link> 2011 Percent Education Spending 2012 Total Spending<cite_reference_link> 2012 Education Spending<cite_reference_link> 2012 Percent Education Spending 2010 Avg. ACT score<cite_reference_link> 2011 Avg. ACT score<cite_reference_link> 2012 Avg. ACT score<cite_reference_link> 2010 Graduation Rate<cite_reference_link> 2011 Graduation Rate<cite_reference_link>
Florida $160.7 billion $40.5 billion 25.2% $159.7 billion $40.9 billion 25.6% 19.5 19.6 19.8 65.0% 66.9%

School choice

According to the Florida Department of Education, the state's emphasis on school choice is based on three main points: every student has different learning needs, maintaining diversity in school structure and programs, and parents and students "achieve more" if they freely choose their learning environment.<cite_reference_link>

School choice options include:

  • Scholarship programs: the state offers three scholarship programs that allows parents and students to choose among public and private schools.
    • The John M.McKay Scholarship Program offers scholarship aid to students with disabilities. The programs gives parents and students the option to select an alternative public school or to apply for a scholarship to attend an "eligible private school." In the 2005-06 school year 740 private schools across the state were participating in the program. The average scholarship amount is $6,897 and can range from $4,805 to $20,703.<cite_reference_link>
    • The Opportunity Scholarship Program allows for parents and students chose an "higher-performing" public or eligible private school if their current school is designated as a "failing Florida public school." A school is labeled as "failing" if it has received two failing grades within four consecutive school years. In the 2005-06 school year 55 private schools participated in the program.<cite_reference_link> However, a January 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling eliminated the private school option after concluding that that particular option was unconstitutional.<cite_reference_link>
    • The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, formerly the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program, was implemented in 2001. Through the program corporations are eligible to receive a dollar for dollar tax credit up to 75 percent of their state income tax liability and the state may award a maximum of $88 million in credits each year. According to the Department of Education the program was created encourage private voluntary contributions from corporate donors to organizations that offer scholarships to low-income families. More than 23,000 students will receive annual scholarships to attend quality schools under a new bill signed into law June 2009. Under this new bill, donations to the program may now include contributions from "S-Corporations" (including insurance companies), who will receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits. The non-profits Foundation for Excellence in Education, the James Madison Institute, Foundations for Florida's Future, Step Up for Students (which combined Florida P.R.I.D.E. and Children First Florida), the Carrie Meek Foundation, and Florida Child were instrumental in the bill's passage.<cite_reference_link><cite_reference_link>
  • Charter schools: are public schools that are independently operated. Charter schools have existed since 1996 in the state of Florida. In the 2005-06 school year Florida had approximately 334 charter schools. Although, charter schools are funded by local public school districts, they offer different programs and curriculum. Charter technical career centers, for example, offers a greater emphasis on post-secondary technical education communities.<cite_reference_link>
  • Virtual schools: also known as the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), was originally a grant-based project in 1997 and changed into a special independent public school district in 2001. The district is currently governed by a board of trustees appointed by the Governor. The program offers approximately 80 free courses to middle and high school students. Specifically the program is geared towards home schooled students, students attending low performing schools, students attending schools with limited offerings and students interested in graduating early.<cite_reference_link>

See also

External links

Additional reading


  1. National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
  2. ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
  3. United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
  4. Florida Constitution,"Article IX, Section 1," accessed June 24,2009
  5. Florida state FY 2009 budget, retrieved June 24,2009
  6. WFTV,"Students, Teachers Protest School Budget Cuts," February 27, 2009
  7. Maine Watchdog, Education Spending Per Child, July 6, 2010
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Miami Herald,"Florida budget cuts impact schools, social services," January 6, 2009
  9. The New York Times,"Florida among states cutting summer school classes," July 1, 2009
  10. National Center for Education Statistics,"Florida State Education Data Profiles," retrieved August 13, 2009
  11. Orlando Sentinel,"Full coverage of Florida's school budget crisis," retrieved August 19, 2009
  12. "Many Florida school boards raising property taxes," The Miami Herald, 7/22/09
  13. Florida Superintendents make impressive salaries - they insist they are worth it
  14. Florida Department of Education, "Teacher Salary, Experience, and Degree Level, 2007-08," May 2008
  15. St. Petersburg Times,"Tenure often determines if Florida teachers keep jobs," April 9, 2009
  16. Florida Senate,"Senate 1226: Relating to Merit Award Program/School Board Employees," retrieved August 25, 2009
  17. 17.0 17.1 The Associated Press,"Teachers Slap 'F' On Bonus Pay Plan," September 16, 2007
  18. 18.0 18.1 The Associated Press,"Crist signs bill reducing teacher bonuses," June 10, 2008
  19. Sarasota Herald Tribune,"Teachers say 'no' to merit pay plan," February 22, 2007
  20. Education Week,"Union Turns to Courts to Block Florida's 'Unfair~' Merit-Pay Program," February 20, 1985
  21. St. Petersburg Times,"Newspaper: Most Merit Pay Goes to Richer Schools' Teachers," February 25, 2008
  22. 22.0 22.1 WJHG,"School Vouchers Latest," March 25,2008
  23. School board powers and duties, Florida statute
  24. Art. I, Sec. 24
  25. Online Sunshine - Lobbying Information
  26. Florida Sunshine - Lobbyist Information
  27. Florida School Boards Association members list
  28. Advocacy for Organizations - Hosting a Legislative Breakfast
  29. Sun Sentinel,"Florida Gov. Crist signs 'muzzle' law," June 11,2009
  30. Bradenton Herald,"Judge rules employees’ info off limits," June 23,2009
  31. Florida Senate,"SB 468," accessed June 29,2009
  32. The Ledger,"Polk Schools Lawyer Broke Law On Records," May 14,2009
  33. The Ledger,"School Board's Lawyer Faces Charges," April 18,2009
  34. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute,"Florida Education Report Card," retrieved November 16, 2009
  35. Joel Chandler's Public Records Report Card for Florida's school districts, 2008
  36. Florida Department of Education,"Number of Florida Schools Earning ‘A’s Climbs to All Time High," June 18,2009
  37. Florida Department of Education,"2009 School Grades and Adequate Yearly Progress Fact Sheet," June 18,2009
  38. New Mexico Watchdog, Get this: Poor Hispanic kids in FL read at a whole grade level higher than ALL of NM students, July 28, 2010
  39. WKMG Local 6, Passing score lowered for FCAT Writing exam, May 16, 2012
  40. Center for Research on Education Outcomes,"Multiple Choice:Charter school performance in 16 states," June 2009
  41. Naples Daily News,"Report: Florida charter school students not keeping pace with peers in public schools," June 15,2009
  42. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  43. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  44. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  45. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  46. 2010 ACT National and State Scores "Average Scores by State"
  47. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  48. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  49. National Center for Education Statistics
  50. National Center for Education Statistics
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 51.3 51.4 51.5 Florida Department of Education,"School Choice Options," accessed June 24, 2009
  52. Florida Supreme Court,"Case No. SC04-2323," January 5,2006
  53. Florida Statute 220.187