Liberal myths about school funding persist

Duval County School Board Member Elizabeth Andersen complained that the increase in state funding “will go through voucher programs and our charter schools,” and not be invested in local district schools.

Andersen clearly does not understand school funding and that probably is one reason the voters fired her Aug. 23. She’s not the only one. The superintendent of schools in Leon County doesn’t get it, either.

Admittedly, school finance is horrendously complicated. Worse, legislators fiddle with the state funding formula every year as various interests try to gain an advantage, so it gets more complicated.

When it was put into effect nearly 75 years ago it was known as the state “equalization” fund.

Each county in Florida is a school district. Some of them have fat tax rolls but relatively few children to educate. In others, it is the reverse.

The intent was to balance out the “pupil rich, property poor” districts and the “property rich, pupil poor,” districts.

Thus, the less affluent districts get more state funds than those that can raise large amounts of money locally.

Liberals have created the myth that schools are underfunded and they also tend to focus on the state funding while ignoring local and federal money spent by the school districts.

Another myth is that school budgets have been slashed. A few years back I looked at every district budget over a 10-year period and not one district had reduced its budget any year during that time. The average increase was about 30 percent over the decade.

Yet another myth is that vouchers “drain money” from the public schools. This is ridiculous and untrue.

Schools get state funds based on the number of students they teach. If a student leaves and goes to another school, the funds go with the child, as they should. It would be lunacy to keep paying a school to teach a child who no longer is enrolled in the school.

One reason vouchers are such a benefit to the public is that the amount is less than the cost of paying a traditional school. Taxpayers actually save money when a child gets a voucher, which averages $7,700.

Furthermore, the purpose of the voucher is to help children, often minorities, trapped in failing government schools have the opportunity to go to a private school of their choice, the same opportunity children from more affluent families always have had. This apparently is not important to the Leon school superintendent. He would prefer struggling children to remain in schools where they are not getting an education, because they mean revenue to the schools.

Per-pupil funding is up for each of the districts. And even if the scholarship funds did go through the district budgets, as some claim, they would amount to less than 3 percent of the total budgets.

The reason for the fixation on money by the government schools is this:

The more money they get, the more money teachers get. The more money the teachers get, the more money the teacher union gets.

The powerful teacher union lobby uses that massive pile of cash to fund the election campaigns of Democrat Party politicians.

Once in power, those liberal politicians keep the cycle going – with your money.

The local schools are increasing spending by a whopping 26 percent next year. This is before the funds from the new property tax increase kick in — $81 million the first year.

Because more parents have a choice, they are choosing to leave the traditional schools and attend charter schools or private schools.

Based on the state’s school grading system, local schools are improving. There are no F schools and only 7 percent are graded D.

But parents are grading the schools by choosing to leave them. The percentage of school-age children in Jacksonville who attend traditional government schools is dropping.

Not all of those choices have to do with academics. Some relate to school safety, which the local district has misrepresented. In addition, it appears that a growing number of parents are dissatisfied with what they see as a “woke” agenda and want no part of it for their children.

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.


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