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Performance funding for state universities among unresolved budget issues

UPDATE: A spokesman for House Speaker Will Weatherford said the House proposal for performance funding found in HB 5105 is effectively dead after failing to pass its final committee. The House will not waive rules to resurrect the proposal, even though it started out on solid ground as a bill introduced by the Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee.

Instead, the House inserted language in its version of the budget that is very similar to the Senate proposal and embraces the Board of Governors' performance funding criteria.

As it stands, the main disagreement between the two chambers is how much the lowest-performance schools would lose. The House would only require a 1 percent cut in base formula. The Senate wants a 3.7 percent reduction.

The two chambers agree to put $200 million into performance funding, including $100 million in new funding that would be divided by the top-performing schools. There is also an additional $5 million each for the two pre-eminent institutions: Florida State University and University of Florida.

ORIGINAL POST: Efforts to finalize the education portion of the state budget stalled Wednesday night when House negotiators rejected a pivotal Senate deal. Sen. Bill Galvano, the Senate’s education budget chief, responded by putting negotiations essentially back at square one and negating almost 48-hours of work.

But even before that meltdown occurred, there were key disagreements on several higher education spending issues.

One of them is how the state will award performance funding to the 11, soon to be 12, state universities. The House and Senate agree on how much money to spend -- $200 million, half of it in new funding -- but little else.

The House plan, found in HB 5105, would use different "pre-eminence" standards to dole out performance funding for to University of Florida and Florida State University. It also tweaks the Board of Governors' performance funding guidelines for the remaining universities in a way that benefits New College of Florida, which currently is at risk of losing a small portion of its state funding because of a low score.

The Senate aligns more closely to the Board of Governors (BOG) plan, which measures the existing state universities in a mostly uniform way. (Florida Polytechnic University doesn’t have students yet and is exempt.) But the Senate plan would require the lowest performers -- New College, Florida Atlantic University and University of West Florida -- to lose nearly four times as much money as they would under the original plan established by the BOG and embraced by Gov. Rick Scott.

"We wanted real skin in the game for the universities," Galvano, R-Bradenton, said. "And it’s a more aggressive approach than the governor took, but we think it’s a better approach if you’re going to really have performance funding."

Under the BOG plan, the three-lowest performing schools would lose 1 percent of base funding because they earned less than half of the available points. FAU would be docked $1.4 million, UWF would lose $675,595 and New College would be $172,720 poorer. The House has similar thresholds, though New College would likely receive enough points to not lose money.

Under the Senate plan, the amounts the three universities lose would increase to $5.2 million at FAU, $2.5 million at UWF and $645,000 at New College.

Both chambers hope to increase how much the top-performing universities earn in performance funding compared to the BOG proposal. But how much has not been determined.

For example, the collective $8.3 million lost by the three low-performing universities under the Senate plan would be redistributed to the other eight. In the House plan, FSU and UF would not only be judged by different standards but would be eligible for a larger chunk of the performance funding pie.

The second big higher education disagreement between the House and the Senate is the proposed split of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering backed by powerful Sen. John Thrasher. Thrasher, a FSU alum who is rumored to be eyeing the university's vacant presidency position, said he is not giving up his fight for $13 million to fund a duplicate engineering program at his alma mater despite a rumored cool reception from House leadership.

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