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As Florida lawmakers consider special legislative session, statewide teachers' union calls for more school funding

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ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times


The Florida Education Association aimed to put Florida's political leaders on the spot on Thursday, calling for them to address school funding if they are all required to come back to Tallahassee for a special session on gambling issues.

"The Florida Education Association calls on Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders to address the shortfall in education funding before the start of the next fiscal year," reads a statement from the group, released Thursday. "With political will, the money can be found."

The statement follows a similar request made last week by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

The group pointed out that Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $64 million's worth of projects in the 2018-2019 budget, money that will be kicked back to the state's general revenue account.

The FEA also references an agreement reached Wednesday between the state and the Seminole Tribe which guaranteed the tribe will pay $300 million in the next year to continue its exclusive right to offer banked card games like blackjack. However, the Legislature assumed the agreement would hold when it drafted its budget and therefore the $300 million is already spoken for.

In this year's budget, the per-pupil portion of classroom education funding saw an increase of only 47 cents, much lower than in previous years. And law enforcement and districts  have been scrambling since the Legislature required that every school have an armed person on every campus, whether that be a trained school staff member or a law enforcement officer.

Before the budget was passed in March, the state's superintendents and school leaders already asked the Legislature to increase the per-pupil spending. That didn't happen.

A decision over whether a special session will be held is expected by early next week. If lawmakers do come back up to Tallahassee, either the governor or the House Speaker jointly with the Senate President have to specify the specific purpose or purposes of the special session. Unless they declare that education funding is part of that purpose, it's unlikely the FEA's requests would be addressed.

When asked if Gov. Scott would include education funding as part of the "call" for a special session, the governor's office disputed there is a shortfall in education funding.

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