Since the Florida Legislature was not able to do their job and approve a budget, the Florida district school leaders are on edge. As a school administration leader, school board members usually struggle with spending plans because they start without any hard numbers. They usually use last year’s numbers, and they make adjustments once they get hard numbers from the governor’s office.
School districts start preparing for their fiscal year July 1st, and they must approve a budget by September. They operate each fall with a tentative budget with money carried from the previous year. But this year, there is no budget because the Florida legislature has not settled on how much money schools will get per student.
Late last year, state economists and the governor’s office were projecting a $1 billion budget surplus, and some of this surplus would be used to increase educational spending. It was projected by the legislative leaders and the governor that per student spending would be set at $7,176; about $50 more than the record high from 2007-08.
But, in February, the federal government confirmed it would not renew the Low-Income Pool funding. At this point, the Florida legislature is facing a $2.3 billion hole, and it looks like the Florida Legislature will be forced to cut appropriations starting with the school budget.
With the two Legislative Houses barely talking and angry with one another, there is potential that nothing will get done at a special legislative session from June 1 to the 20th. We can surmise that the two leaders are talking to each other, but there is very little information to confirm that report.
Many pundits and political experts are starting to blame Governor Scott for a lack of leadership with the dysfunctional Florida legislative session. Darryl Paulson, retired professor emeritus of political science at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg says, Governor Scott is one of the worse governors in the history of the state.
Professor Paulson states, “Governor Scott’s tenure has been a string of heavy-handed attempts to impose his rather limited vision on the state. That has meant restrictive voting laws, environmental rollbacks and the stripping of Cabinet authority. His leadership has been so inconsistent, so flaky; you can almost say there has been no leadership.”
As the special Florida legislative session begins June 1, it will be necessary for the governor to help resolve the stalemate in the two Houses. Without a budget on July 1, the state would shut down, and everything would come to a grinding halt. The state budget funds schools, universities, hospitals, state governmental departments, and even federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare.
This has never happened in the state before, and it is an unprecedented event. Everyone in the state is on pins and needles, and both sides appear not to budge, and are unwilling to compromise. This is an ugly situation, and no one will win if the leadership in the two Houses and the governor don’t start talking.
Roger Caldwell, a community activist, author, journalist, radio host and CEO of On Point Media Group, lives in Orlando. His book, The Inspiring Journey of a Stroke Survivor, details the story of his recovery from a massive stroke. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.