Tribune News Service
Florida schools to benefit from the 2022-2023 state budget of $112.1 billion starting July 1
Every year, the Florida legislature sets the budget for education. According to the Florida Education Association’s 2022 End of Session Report, “The 2022-23 state budget totals $112.1 billion, an increase of $15.5 billion over the 2021-22 budget.” With the substantial increase in the state budget, the state has allocated funds to raise salaries and improve early learning initiatives.While many House and Senate bills have failed to pass, such as two regarding school safety and school readiness, several other proposals have been approved. The new state budget and its legislative acts will go into effect on July 1, 2022.
Minimum Wage Increase
The current Florida minimum wage is $10 per hour. The minimum wage, under the new state budget, will increase the salaries of school employees to $15 per hour.
“Any time anybody can get more money, I’m 100% for it. At $15 an hour, it is really not a lot of income for someone [to support themselves and their family],” Guidance Secretary Patrice Frohman said.
By Oct. 1, 2022, the superintendents of the school districts must submit proof to the Florida Department of Education; if submissions are untruthful in any way, there will be charges of perjury. To ensure the conditions of the new requirement are met, any employee who is not receiving the legally promised $15 per hour wage may issue a civil court case beginning on January 1, 2023.
The new increase additionally raises several questions on how the funds will be evenly and effectively distributed.
“Yes, the $15 has an impact, but how is that for everybody? What’s going to happen with veteran teachers, is that wage going to increase? I think [the increased minimum wage would] be great but I would want to see what it does across the board,” Guidance Director Veronica Melei said.
K-12 Education Funding
The designated budget for elementary, middle and school education funding has been increased to $24.3 billion, a 7.5% change from previous years. The per-student funding has been increased by $384.55, from $7,758.30 to $8,142.85.
However, according to the Florida Education Association, the budget “has not caught up with pre-recession levels when adjusted for inflation.”
“[We need to] give the kids everything they deserve so they can achieve what they want to achieve. Our kids are our future, and all the money should go into it,” Frohman said.
In light of a projected student enrollment increase of 2.42% for a total of three million students, several programs have been given millions of dollars to expand their initial purposes. Some of the most important changes that will be taken are listed below.
- Base Student Allocation, the amount of money issued to each FTE (or “full-time equivalency”), increases by $214.49 or 4.90%
- Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) increases by $1.5 billion or 8.35%
- FEFP Base Funds increases by $1 billion or 7.15%
- Required Local Effort (RLE) increases by $633.2 million
Moreover, $250 million for a total of $800 million will be allocated to increase teacher salaries; the purpose of the increase in funding is to achieve the $47,500 starting salary for classroom teachers and to raise pay for veteran teachers, stated a Florida Politics article by Jacob Ogles.
“Teachers should be paid properly for all they do. I think all schools, regardless of income, should be funded. To me, education of our kids is the most important thing and it takes top priority over anything,” Frohman said.
The Florida Education Association also provided a $20 million increase in funding for mental health to help school districts and charter schools address youth mental health problems. Throughout the entirety of the school year, public high schools have enforced a comprehensive state-mandated mental health curriculum.
“There should be Wellness Centers available in schools, but I do not believe mental health should be in the presentations shown every semester,” junior Dillon Moquin said.
Broward County Public Schools created an online course; all MSD students were invited to one on Canvas titled “Marjory Stoneman Douglas Comprehensive Health Mandate-Student Course.”
“Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) is committed to preparing students to be emotionally resilient and academically prepared for success in a global community,” the MSD Canvas homepage said. “Rule 6A-1.094121 requires Mental and Emotional Health instruction for all students in grades 6-12. The content areas to be taught are mental and emotional health, substance use and abuse prevention, internet safety and/or human trafficking, and character education.”
Besides the online course, MSD has mental health professionals readily available for any student or faculty member in need.
“I think we’re very lucky that we have so much support [at MSD because] a lot of other schools do not have the mental health support that we do,” Melei said. “We have two district counselors that bring a wealth of information in terms of social, emotional and mental health. We have the Wellness Center where we have the social workers and the family therapists.”
The Mental Health Assistance Allocation will allocate a total of $140 million to acknowledge and combat youth mental health issues.
Other Increases in Funding
Additionally, the new state budget takes into account various other initiatives that affect families across Florida. The funds will be applied to reading instruction, a $40 million increase for a total of $170 million, and to supplemental services, a $24.4 million total.
According to the FEA’s End of Session Report, the increased funding is meant to “improve the overall academic and community welfare of students and their families” across the board, but specifically at designated lower-performing schools.
With the increase of $15.5 billion in the new Florida budget, the state has allocated various amounts of funding to improve its current programs to better address discrepancies in youth education.
From the $250 million budgeted for teacher salary increases to the $8,142 dedicated to increasing per-student funding, the Florida Legislature aims to elevate education throughout the state. However, the increases currently do not keep up with rising inflation. The new budget will go into effect starting July 1, 2022, for the 2022-2023 school year.