An Open Letter to Clay County’s Stakeholders in Education

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It is with great concern that I share the projected education appropriations that await approval by the Governor. While some legislators may view the overall educational budget to be one that takes a step in the right direction, please note that it simply does not.

The proposed budget provides school districts around the state with an increase in funding of 0.34 percent that is comprised of restricted categorical funding and an increase in the Florida Retirement System contribution. This marginal increase does very little for our district and means that Clay County District Schools has limited opportunity to enhance funding that improves the educational experiences of our students.

This budget stifles the birth of creative and innovative programs that will allow Clay County District Schools to expand initiatives that provide 21st Century learners with grounding-breaking exposure to programs and curriculum. The proposed budget does not acknowledge the need to financially incentivize both teachers and support staff for their commitment to improving teaching and learning within our classrooms.

Additionally, no money has been extended to school districts to continue our focus on upgrading facilities and infrastructure and ensuring an aesthetically sound learning environment for both our teachers, support staff and students.

I share this information with you as the underlying theme and message is that this year’s budget proposes financial cuts to the Base Student Allocation for Clay County by $27 per student. As proposed, the BSA for Clay County Schools will be reduced from $4,160.71 to $4,133.64, which will negatively influence our overall budget and foster consequences that could potentially impact the quality of education that is provided to our students. This financial impact represents nearly $1 million that will be critically needed to continue to offer rich, rigorous and relevant experiences to our students.

The bullets below define the impact to education and Clay County District Schools. I share this information with you to provide clarity on the decisions made in our Legislature along with the potential services that could be impacted within our school district. As Superintendent of Schools, my ultimate goal is to hold classrooms harmless, but this budget will not allow the district to avoid undesired budget cuts. 

I thank you for allowing me to lead and standing by me as we seek to return Clay County District Schools to one of the top school districts in Florida and around our nation. I look forward to finding proactive strategies to become fiscally responsible while providing a “world-class” experience in all classrooms.

 

Here are the facts and stats for the proposed 2017-2018 budget:

§  The increase in total funds for K-12 funding statewide is $241,431,317 or 1.2 percent. These dollars fund an additional 23,919 students entering Florida’s public school system in the upcoming school year. When looking at additional dollars available per student, the budget provides for a mere $24.49 or less than a 1 percent (.34 percent) increase over last year’s budget. 

 

§  In Florida, schools are funded on a per-student basis through a formula called the Florida Education Finance Program. 

 

§  The FEFP is comprised of the Base Student Allocation and categoricals that are reserved for specific purposes such as Transportation, Instructional Materials, ESE Guaranteed Allocation (services for disabled students) and Safe Schools (funding for school resource officers).

 

§  Any increases in funding in categoricals cannot be used for general operating expenses or to increase teacher and support staff pay.

 

§  The BSA are the only available flexible dollars for school districts. They are used to fund salaries and benefits for employees and to add new programs for students.

 

§  The proposed rate increases for the Florida Retirement System are projected to consume about $54 million of the $69 million, leaving about $5.32 per student for districts to address all other increased costs of providing services to our students. School districts are facing increased health care, utility, fuel and other operational costs.

 

§  The Exceptional Student Education allocation that serves over 540,000 students with disabilities statewide is nearly $50 million less than 10 years ago, leaving little funding to provide innovative supports.

 

§  The Safe Schools statewide allocation is over $11 million less than 10 years ago, creating financial hardships to ensure a safe and productive environment.

 

§  The Instructional Materials statewide allocation is $36 million less for our students than 10 years ago, putting more constraints for school systems to identify and provide the best curricula for our students and teachers.

 

§  This year’s budget cuts the Base Student Allocation $27.07 statewide from $4,160.71 last year to $4,133.64.

 

§  If school districts are given access to some of the $200 million in charter incentive funds, Clay County District Schools will not receive a penny of these funds due to our academic success. If these funds were instead redirected to the FEFP, it would result in over a 2 percent increase in funds per student.

 

I hope this information helps you understand the fiscal status for Clay County District Schools. I encourage you to contact your local representatives and legislators to share your concerns impacting the education of our students. I look forward to continuing to Elevate Clay. 

 

Sincerely,

Addison G. Davis

Superintendent of Schools

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