Struggles continue over Florida school districts’ budget cuts after DeSantis backs House proposal

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Florida school districts are preparing for budget cuts as the fight over student mask penalties unfolds in the Florida Legislature. 

The House voted on Wednesday to approve a $105.3 billion spending plan. The proposal would also greenlight the reallocation of $200 million away from 12 Florida school districts, in what’s called the “Putting Parents First Adjustment.” 

After previously denouncing the House’s budget proposal, Gov. Ron DeSantis changed his tune on Tuesday when he backed the proposal sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay). 

A Twitter interaction between DeSantis and Fine highlights the governor’s opinion on the 12 districts that would lose funds from the budget proposal. In a tweet, DeSantis wrote Fine and the House are protecting students and teachers from measures imposed by “union-controlled politicians and bureaucrats.” The governor went on to say parents should be financially compensated for how their children have been impacted by these districts’ mask mandates.

Fine thanked the governor on Twitter for his outspoken support in holding the 12 school districts accountable. 

“It is not my intention to punish anyone,” Fine said to the House Tuesday. “It’s to hold them accountable.”

The 55 school districts that followed DeSantis’ mask ban could see major increases in their respective budgets. Bradford County Schools and Putnam County Schools could gain about $2 million combined in funding.

The 12 targeted school districts face difficult decisions on where to cut their budgets as the proposal moves forward.

Alachua County Public Schools stands to lose over $2 million from the proposed budget cuts. The state provided about $141 million of the district’s $287 million budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

District spokesperson Jackie Johnson did not respond via phone or email to questions about what cuts Alachua County schools might need to consider.

Leon County Schools, which could lose about $2.7 million in funds, has considered 16 administrative positions that meet the proposal’s requirements for budget cuts. One of its biggest losses could be the removal of its security chief.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna voiced his disappointment in the governor for supporting a plan that would remove funding for school safety on the anniversary of the Parkland shooting. Additional positions that may be cut from the county’s budget include the chief financial officer and assistant superintendents who oversee improvement, accountability and testing and school management and staffing services. 

The Florida Senate has yet to back the budget proposal. According to a News Service of Florida report, Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, told reporters on Thursday he had not considered a plan similar to the House proposal.

Until then, school districts in Florida continue to face an uncertain future.

About Addison Pezoldt

Addison is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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