Lawmakers reach agreement to reward school districts without a mask mandate
House and Senate budget negotiators have crafted their plan to hold school districts accountable for breaking state law regarding mask mandates.
Senate negotiators led by the Republican senator from Lakeland. Kelli Stargel and House negotiators under Panama City Rep. Jay Trumbull had previously agreed to reinstate the $200 million in the Florida School Recognition Program. However, lawmakers are limiting the performance recognition fund to only be available to the 55 districts that followed government orders. Ron DeSantisadministration and state law prohibiting mask mandates.
The plan began as “Put Parents First in the Fit,” introduced by the House’s top pre-K-12 budget negotiator, Brevard Republican Rep. randy good. The Putting Parents First adjustment would have redirected funds intended for the highest-paid administrators from the 12 offending districts to the remaining 55 districts. Directors earning more than $100,000 per year would have been subject to the reductions.
With the changes described, the 12 districts would no longer see budgetary compensation, but they would lose funding that benefits maintaining or improving student performance. Essentially, the districts are not losing an estimated total of $200 million, but rather losing their share of a $200 million pot.
Schools should still maintain high performance, with an academic grade of “A,” or improve at least one letter grade from the 2018-2019 school year.
Trumbull said the exclusion from this year’s Florida School Recognition Program is not a deduction because the state did not offer the recognition fund last year.
“What this fund does is say, hey, if you follow the law and your kids and your school are doing well, you have the opportunity to tap into some of these resources,” Trumbull told reporters. “If you have broken the law, you do not receive these resources. It’s as clear as possible.
As stated in the new language, the Florida School Recognition Program recognizes “the efforts of outstanding faculty and staff in these school districts who have overcome pandemic-related learning disruptions to maintain highly productive schools.”
Lawmakers also rewrote language clarifying that the fund is a performance incentive program. Instead, the proposed language says Florida’s School Recognition Program would reward school districts and charter schools for “putting parents first” and following state emergency rules.
Last month, DeSantis asked the House to take a different approach, arguing that the plan could penalize teachers and students. However, the Republican Governor approved the house plan next week.
Ahead of the 2021-22 school year, DeSantis, the Department of Education (DOE), and the Department of Health began imposing rules to prevent public schools from requiring students to wear masks. The Legislative Assembly met in the fall, at the request of the Governor, to pass a measurement codifying these and other rules into law. These laws relate to the Parents’ Bill of Rightsthat the legislature passed last year.
President of the Senate wilton simpsona Republican from Trilby, did not fully endorse the House plan last month, but backed some sort of accountability measure.
The Senate has yet to accept the House’s latest offer, but the Senate’s top budget negotiator and Republican senator from Lakeland. Kelli Stargel appeared to support the Florida Schools Recognition Program angle in comments to reporters.
Before accepting the new house language, Stargel called Florida’s School Recognition Program a better, cleaner approach.
“School recognition is what we’ve done to reward schools for what they’ve done and how they’ve run. Those districts weren’t following the law, so they won’t be entitled to those dollars,” Stargel said.
While Fine had tried to cast the Putting Parents First adjustment as an accountability measure, Democrats criticized it as a punishment for school districts and students.
“The people who were subject to punitive measures in the last 12 months were the students who were in the school districts,” Fine replied to Democrats last month.
The budget represents the consensus between the House and the Senate on the financial priorities of the state. However, it is still subject to the Governor’s veto.
Last year, DeSantis was thought to have exercised a relatively light touch when he cut $1.5 billion from the $101 billion budget.