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House preK-12 budget proposal holds steady

The House PreK-12 Appropriations Committee released details of its proposed budget this afternoon with an increase in per-student funding of $30.10, from $6,860.36 in 2008-09 to $6,890.46 proposed for 2009-10.

Chairman Anitere Flores, R-Miami, explained that the goal going in was to "protect per-student funding as much as possible," and they fully expected a reduction in the 3 to 5 percent range. Instead, Flores said they worked hard to present the "minor increase to per-student funding." (See also her talking points. And the Democrats' response.)

More than $800 million in stimulus funds was added to the K-12 budget allocation. And, the plan is to shift 0.25 from the capital millage to the discretionary operating millage, although districts would be able to opt out of the move. Flores said that shift will generate $380 million for student funding.

Committee members had lots of questions, including Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach, who asked whether they had "just shifted stuff around" to make it look like per-student funding wasn't being reduced.

Aside from per-student funding categories, some $22 million in cuts are proposed to such programs as voluntary pre-K (2 percent), mentoring (30 percent) and teacher development (20 percent). A 30 percent reduction was called for based on the allocation ($177.3 million), but stimulus funds cut the gap.

A number of issues are addressed in a conforming bill, which was to be released soon. A lot of the proposals mirror some from the Senate, like lowering school board member salaries to match legislators' pay, changing the 180-day school year to an hourly equivalent to make room for four-day weeks and giving districts more flexibility for spending money.