The House-Senate Pre-K-12 budget conference committee finally met for the first time late Thursday night, after the two sides came to an initial agreement on raiding some state trust funds to backfill part of the hole in the education budget. Schools spending had been propped up for the last two years by hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money.
The Senate's first offer -- a schools budget of about $20 billion -- represents a drop of nearly 9 percent from last year. It is some $162 million lower than the SEnate's earlier budget plan.
Per-student funding takes a 7.9 percent cut in the proposal -- about $540 per pupil. But that number is misleading, said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, because it includes the $859 million money districts will lose from the Florida Retirement System if employees, as expected, start contributing 3 percent of their pay to their pensions. Districts will also have to pay $859 million less in pension costs.
Taking that into account, as well as $554 billion in stimulus education jobs that districts were told to save, Simmons said the per-student funding cut amounts to about 1 percent.
Expect districts to take issue with that and say that the numbers don't add up to the state funding public education.
Said Simmons: "It's all green money. They have it."