Report Florida last in public education / Public News Service

A new Network for Public Education report grades Florida an “F” for its public school funding.

As Florida lawmakers negotiate the state budget in the final days of the legislative session, the Public Schooling in America report has sparked concern among some educators and policymakers. The report says the Sunshine State struggles in key areas, including financial support for public schools, the impact of voucher and charter-school programs, and teacher-certification requirements.

Damaris Allen, executive director of Families for Strong Public Schools, has two children who graduated from the same public high school she attended 25 years earlier and has seen firsthand the lack of investment in public education.

“The opportunities I had versus the opportunities they had – you could see that we have opted to not invest in our public schools in the way our children deserve,” she said. “I think the bright side of this report is that we have nowhere to go but up.”

Lawmakers are working through next year’s $28.4 billion Pre-K-12 public school budget. The House and Senate are negotiating differences over a teacher pay increase. The Senate is pitching $200.5 five million, while the House is proposing $1.3 million more.

According to the report, 74% of students attend public schools, down from 86% in 2000. The report ranks states based on various factors, including voucher and charter expansion, public school funding, and protections for home-schooled students.

Moira Kaleida, national coalition director for the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, said for-profit corporations manage more than 30% of charter schools in Florida.

“And so it’s become a money-making scheme more than it has become an educational program,” she said, “so when we see the focus on profits, we know the investments aren’t on students.”

The report highlights several findings, including the loss of rights for students with disabilities under voucher programs and the lack of certification requirements for teachers in many voucher-accepting schools. The report calls on stakeholders to consider the long-term consequences of education policies while emphasizing the crucial role of public schools in delivering high-quality, inclusive education to students.

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