Manatee school board OKs proposals for state funding

eearl@bradenton.comAugust 27, 2013 

0827_BRLO_schools

Officials with the Bradenton Fire Department and the Manatee School District as the fire department donates a 1987 Class A pumper firetruck worth $180,000 Monday to the Manatee Technical Institute Fire Academy. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

GJEFFERIES@BRADENTON.COM

MANATEE-- The Manatee County School Board approved platforms Monday that could bring in more funds from the state and impact education statewide.

The items were approved by unanimous vote to be submitted to the Florida School Board Association as planks for the 2014 legislative session.

The state asked all school districts for suggestions dealing with education and education funding issues to bring before legislators in Tallahassee in March. The Manatee County School Board selected eight platforms, naming three as top priorities.

The district platforms are:

• Restore school board authority to levy an additional .25 mills for critical operating or capital outlay needs, or both.

• Fully fund the Florida Education Finance Program.

• Fully fund dual enrollment programs, maintain the current delivery system that allows the local school district and local community college to offer adult education programs and repeal community college authorization to limit student access to courses.

• Ensure pre-kindergarten funding and student-teacher ratios are consistent with fed

eral guidelines and recommendations of the Florida Children's Movement.

• Eliminate using student performance on standardized tests as the primary basis for teacher, administrator, school and district evaluations

• Modify the assessment system so student proficiency and progress made from the beginning to the end of the school year are measured and ensure results are returned promptly to students, parents and teachers

• Give final decision-making authority over charter schools within the district to the local school board, including decisions to accept proposed charter contracts or renew existing charter pacts.

• Apply the same laws, rules and regulations to charter schools and traditional public schools.

The school board unanimously agreed funding for dual enrollment, which allows high school students to attend a community college for college credit, should be a top priority.

"This has a direct impact and will be an immediate benefit to our district and across the state," school board member Bob Gause said.

The state shifted the cost of dual enrollment from colleges to school districts this year, costing the Manatee County School District $180,000.

While school board vice chairwoman Julie Aranibar acknowledged dual enrollment as a priority, she said the district should also look at funding costs when ranking platforms to bring to legislators.

"Last year's legislative session saw more cuts on the college level than at the elementary level," Aranibar said. "

Aranibar said dual enrollment is on the lower side in terms of costs.

Pre-kindergarten funding is one platform all board members agreed will have a big financial impact on the district.

"(Pre-kindergarten funding) is a higher-cost item," Aranibar said.

Gause agreed, although he said unlike dual enrollment, pre-kindergarten funding is not likely to be addressed by the state in the short term.

"I believe that is something we can get the state doing, and all students will benefit," Gause said. "But I believe it will take time."

The school board also named applying the same laws to charter schools and traditional public schools as a top priority, pushing for equal maintenance funding.

"We have to all be working off the same page," Gause said.

Superintendent Rick Mills and deputy superintendent of instruction Diana Greene suggested funding for the Florida Education Finance Program as a priority.

The Florida Education Finance Program is the funding formula used by Legislature to distribute funds for public school district operations.

Greene said certain school district operations are not fully funded, such as transportation.

"Districts are not receiving 100 percent funding for this," Greene said. "They are only receiving about 40 percent. We are asking the state to fully fund every category in which there are categorical dollars."

However, Gause and Dave "Watchdog" Miner were concerned that might be too complex and broad of a platform.

"The (Florida School Board Association) has been asking for it forever, and it never seems to happen," Gause said. "We need to drill down to something we can put into bite size."

The school board chose not to support expanding use of locally voted sales taxes to include operating expenses.

Linda Schaich, who ran for school board last year against Gause, said she is glad of that.

"I have a problem taking what little is left of that sales tax and use it on operating expenses," Schaich said. "That is not what that is for."

Platforms from all school districts are due to the Florida School Board Association by Sept. 6.

"With the (Florida School Board Association) it is important to gather all advocates for children and those like-minded about the importance of children and continue to push education in the state's budget," school board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter said.

The school board will be in Stuart Tuesday and Wednesday for master board training sessions, and in December, the board will have a state-mandated ethics training session.

A public hearing to discuss the 2013-14 school district budget is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081

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