The House and Senate are just a few cents apart on agreeing to how much money school districts should get next year for each student -- though other issues remain for the two sides to hash out.
The House threw a curve ball in its budget offer Friday morning by saying it wants to keep districts from contracting outside lobbyists for more than $100,000 -- a move that led to surprised looks among the lobbying corps sitting in a Senate committee room.
"In tough times, you look at all areas of spending," said Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna and the House budget chief, though she admitted to not knowing how many districts spend that kind of cash on contract lobbyists (many have in-house lobbyists).
Originally, the two chambers had contemplated cutting per-pupil money an average of $463 in the House and $423 in the Senate. The Senate on Thursday proposed a $540.37 reduction after legislative leaders set aside less money than expected for schools.
(The actual cut is closer $83, the Senate says, taking into account factors including reforms to pensions for public employees.)
Friday morning, the House put forth a $539.85 cut to per-student funding, which is currently $6,810 a year.
The remaining sticking points include whether to fund an extra hour of school in some cases -- a move backed by Sen. David Simmons, the Altamonte Springs Republican who heads the Senate budget -- and details on bonds to pay for school construction. And there are differences on how much to fund the African American Task Force and the Florida Holocaust Museum, programs important to several lawmakers.
The two sides agreed, among other things, to:
- Authorize voluntary pre-kindergarten programs to increase the number of students per classroom
- Allow schools to enroll new students into full classes after October, when the state measures compliance with class-size mandates, as long as schools have a plan for how to deal with the extra students the following year.
- Cut school recognition funding in half as the state implements a new law on teacher pay and tenure.