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PRESS RELEASE

November 17, 2006

Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Commissioner Winn Announces Florida Student Enrollment Figures

TALLAHASSEE — Education Commissioner John L. Winn today released enrollment figures for Florida's K-12 public school system. There are 2.64 million full-time equivalent (FTE) students enrolled in Florida based on the second survey count conducted during October. During the last 10 years, Florida has experienced slower growth in enrollment, but this year marks the smallest increase in over two decades. Historical data is used to project enrollment for the coming school year.

"Projecting student enrollment is critical for state and local officials to plan their budgets," said Commissioner Winn. "Economic influences, as well as historical data, should be included in projections. We will be working with school districts to develop best practices for projections."

Nearly half, 29 of the 67 school districts saw a decline in enrollment this year. Overall, the number of students enrolled in Florida's public schools increased only slightly (0.02 percent or 476.84 students) compared to last year. Monroe, Madison, Franklin and Glades Counties had the biggest declines losing between three to 11 percent of their enrollment compared to last year. However, a number of districts saw an increase. Flagler County experienced the largest increase of almost 10 percent (9.95 percent). St. Lucie County's enrollment increased by more than seven percent (7.19 percent). Another 36 school districts saw a less than five percent increase in enrollment.

Enrollment data is a critical factor in helping state and local officials plan annual budgets. This summer, the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, a research arm of the Florida Legislature, convened a Public School Enrollment Estimating Conference to forecast the number of public school Capital Outlay and Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) Full-Time-Equivalent (FTE) students. The amount of funding a school district is allocated is based on this student enrollment projection. Because projections are based on historical data, the state and local school districts may budget for more students than actually enrolled. The changes in student enrollment create a $204 million difference this year between the amount of statewide funding appropriated and the amount to be allocated. Districts posting a decline from last year's actual enrollment will receive funding for half of the students they lost for one year.

Slower growth in student enrollment will impact Florida's teacher shortage and districts' ability to meet the increasingly stringent requirements of the class size amendment. At the beginning of this school year, Florida had 1,946 teacher vacancies on the first day of school compared to 2,101 last year. Now that class size averages must be calculated at the school-level averages, many schools need additional teachers to remain in compliance to avoid the requirement to shift their operating funds to capital budgets.

Education officials speculate rising property prices and taxes, recent hurricanes and increasing insurance costs have contributed to lower student enrollment. "These challenges hit education just as have they have in every other sector of Florida," said Commissioner Winn. "By increasing funding per student, the state could assist districts in meeting growing financial challenges associated with the rise in insurance and utilities costs."

To view state and district enrollment figures go to: http://www.fldoe.org/fefp/pdf/oct06fte.pdf.