In a win for school districts, leaders of the House and Senate committees hashing out a compromise pre-K-12 education budget agreed late Wednesday not to cut funding to Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and other rigorous high school courses.
The Senate had originally proposed slashing money for the popular, college-level classes in half, as well as reducing the bonuses teachers receive when their students pass the course exams. School districts cried foul, saying that was unfair to do in a year when a new high school grading system will give more weight to those advanced course offerings.
Senators reversed their position earlier Wednesday, and House members accepted the change Wednesday night.
While the two chambers don't yet have a compromise on all areas of the education budget, one area has seen no change: a move that would shift some property-tax money normally designated for school districts' capital budgets into its day-to-day operating budgets.
That would help smaller districts strapped for cash, but larger counties with more construction, maintenance and technology needs could be in trouble. Miami-Dade and Broward schools officials have said they might have to forgo roof replacements, maintenance workers and new computers if the change goes through.
"We just don't want to disenfranchise some of the small school districts," said Sen. Stephen Wise, a Jacksonville Republican and Senate leader on the education budget negotiations. He dismissed large districts' hardship claims as "part of the season."
"Every year they're going to die," he said. "I'm sure they'll be back next year with four or five new ones."