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St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Opposes Education Funding Cuts in Florida Budget Bookmark

(St. Johns County, FL)- On May 8, 2017, the Florida Senate and House of Representatives will vote up or down on the 2017-18 budget for the State of Florida.  The budget bill, SB 2500, reduces the Base Student Allocation (BSA) funding level by $27.07 per student from $4,160.71 last year to $4,133.64 this year.
A funding cut resulting in a loss of nearly $1 million for St. Johns County according to comments made by Superintendent of Schools Tim Forson to The St. Augustine Record.

“Schools are community assets; they are pivotal to jobs and economic development. The Chamber’s interest in the vitality of our school district reaches beyond the fact that our children will be affected,” St. Johns County President / CEO Isabelle Rodriguez said. “It is important for the Chamber to speak because it will affect our ability to attract new capital investment to our county and thus the health of the local business community. We need great schools to create the workforce that attracts great companies and entices decision makers to place their children in our classrooms.”

In Florida, schools are funded on a per-student basis through a formula called the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP).  The FEFP is comprised of the Base Student Allocation and separate pots of money which are restricted for specific purposes such as transportation, instructional materials, services for disabled students and safe schools. These BSA dollars are the only flexible funds St. Johns County Schools receive from the State that can be used for new programs for students and for teachers’ salaries and benefits.  According to Forson, without these funds, the State’s number one rated school district will be forced to cut programs and staff.

 “Our community is one built on collaboration and trust. This is why I feel it necessary to share my concern over the state education budget up for vote on Monday afternoon. This budget is not one filled with hope and promise for our students. This budget hurts your children and our schools by decreasing the funds that create programs for students and the funds that compensate teachers for their hard work,” wrote Forson in an email sent on Sunday, May 7.

Additionally, HB 7069, the massive 278 page budget conforming bill, which was made public late on Friday, May 5, contains sweeping changes to a myriad of public education policies.  These changes include requiring school districts to share dollars generated by their local 1.5 mill capital outlay with charter schools on a per student basis. According to a school district representative, St. Johns County schools are already struggling to keep up with our county’s rapid growth.  This bill will take already scarce dollars away from our public school building and maintenance programs.

The bill will be voted up or down, with no ability for members to offer amendments or changes to the current bill’s language.

“The St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce strongly supports our highly rated schools and urges a ‘NO’ vote by our Legislative Delegation of any Florida Budget and HB 7069, which endangers our childrens’ education and our County’s number one ranking,” said Rodriguez.

The St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit business membership organization that works to continuously improve the business environment in St. Johns County. It has more than 1100 member businesses and offices in St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach.

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