Superintendent fired up about school funding bill

- A big battle is underway in Tallahassee. It has to do with the funding of Florida's public schools.

Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins is watching and waiting to see if the bill will pass as it stands. He says if it does, it will have devastating consequences for some of the district's most poverty-stricken schools.

Eakins says the new bill regulates how local districts spend federal Title I dollars. He says, essentially, it will keep districts from dedicating more money toward struggling schools and, instead, rely on out-of-state charter systems to open up in tough neighborhoods.

Eakins says those out-of-state systems have not expressed interest in opening up in those affected areas. He says the mandate would leave millions of dollars in limbo.

The superintendent also says the new education bill slashes per-student funding for the first time in years.

"This will be the first time since the Great Recession that the base student allocation has been cut in the state of Florida at a time that student enrollment is booming at roughly 4,000 more students a year in Hillsborough County alone. The economy is growing, property values are rising, and sales tax collections are increasing. All that should signal better support for our students," Eakins said.

Eakins says the proposed budget would cut funding by $27 per student.

Other notable elements of the bill: It would make 20-minute recess mandatory for elementary school students.  It would also expand the state's "Best and Brightest" bonus program, which provides monetary incentives to high-performing teachers.

Lawmakers are still debating the bill in Tallahassee.

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