The preK-12 budget conference committee just met, with the Senate providing its counteroffer to last night’s House bid. The sides appear to be moving quickly to agreement, though the talk today was about provisions in the budget, not the funding numbers themselves. That comes later today. New in the Senate offer:
- A pitch to preserve bonuses for all of Florida’s National Board certified teachers. The House plan was to limit the bonuses, which have been $5,000 a year, to classroom teachers in low-performing schools. “We don’t want to disenfranchise people who work hard,” said Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville.
- A proposal to waive green building requirements for school districts during the 2009-10 school year, which would let districts meet building standards but not have to spend more money on environmentally friendly materials.
- A plan to create a pilot study for English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, teacher training. The study would look at whether teachers with fewer hours of training could provide the same quality instruction as teachers receiving more training.
One of the biggest sticking points may end up being a plan to shift some property-tax money normally designated for school districts' capital budgets into its day-to-day operating budgets. That provision is still in the budget proposal, but lawmakers from Miami-Dade and Broward -- including Rep. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, Sen. Larcenia Bullard, a Miami Democrat, and Rep. Martin Kiar, a Davie Democrat -- said they hope to change that. Urban school districts with big-ticket construction, maintenance and technology have said the change might leave them without enough money for school upkeep.
A possible compromise: allowing school districts, at their discretion, so raise more property taxes to go to their capital budgets. Of course, that would pass the politically unpopular buck of raising taxes to school board members.
-- Amy Hollyfield and Patricia Mazzei