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Press Release

Monday, January 25, 2010

Governor's Press Office
(850) 488-5394

Governor Crist Unveils Record $22.7-Billion Proposed Budget for Pre-K-12 Education

~ Recommends increased K-12 per-student funding, higher teacher bonuses and flexibility in reducing class size ~

ST. PETERSBURG – Governor Charlie Crist today highlighted his 2010-11 proposed budget for Pre K-12 education, recommending record level funding of $22.7 billion to continue learning gains achieved by Florida’s students during recent years. This includes state, federal and local funding, as well as an increase of more than $535.5 million over the current fiscal year. The Governor announced his budget plan at his alma mater Bay Vista Elementary School in St. Petersburg.

“I gained valuable skills and knowledge here at Bay Vista, and I am committed to ensuring that all of Florida’s K-12 students have the best learning environment possible,” Governor Crist said. “Florida’s young people deserve a solid educational foundation for their futures, and we cannot – and must not – let them down.”

Governor Crist pointed to Florida’s decade of educational progress continued this year with an 8th-place national ranking by the 2010 Quality Counts: Fresh Course, Swift Current report. Florida’s ranking is due to improved student performance in elementary, middle and high schools; incentives for top-performing teachers and Florida’s ability to attract and retain a strong teacher workforce; high academic standards and rigorous testing programs; and the percentage of state funds spent on public schools and equitable distribution of those funds to school districts.

The Quality Counts report card issued annually by Education Week tracks state education policies and performance and assigns each state an overall point total to signify their education standing in the nation. This year’s ranking improves the Sunshine State’s ranking of 10th last year and 14th in 2008, up from 31st in 2007.

In addition, Governor Crist highlighted increased student achievement indicated by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a national sample of students in fourth, eighth and 12th grades, allowing math and reading results to be compared among states. Florida’s students exceed the national average in both fourth-grade math and reading.

To continue Florida’s decade of educational progress, Governor Crist made the following budget recommendations:

  • Per-Student Funding – Governor Crist’s K-12 education recommendations for Fiscal Year 2010-11 include a 2.61-percent increase in per-student funding over the current year. This increase provides a $179 increase per student, for an average of $7,045 per student for the 2.6 million K-12 students expected during the 2010-11 school year. If adopted, this per-student amount would be the second highest funding level ever for Florida’s students.
  • Voluntary Prekindergarten Program – Voluntary Prekindergarten Program provides a good early-learning foundation that leads to future academic success. As a result, the Voluntary Prekindergarten program is growing in popularity and is projected to grow by 5.8 percent in 2010-11 to include 152,795 students. To meet this growing demand, Governor Crist recommended a $44.8-million increase, for a total of $411.9 million to provide high quality early learning to eligible four-year-olds.
  • Teacher Bonuses – Governor Crist continues his commitment to reward teachers who work diligently to improve their teaching skills and student learning. Governor Crist recommended the following teacher bonuses:
    • Dale Hickam Excellent Teaching Program - $57.1 million for awards to teachers who earn national certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The bonus is a salary supplement for 10 years, equal to about $5,000 for Fiscal Year 2010-11.
    • School Recognition Program - A 33-percent increase for the School Recognition Program, which rewards schools that improve a letter grade or maintain a grade of “A” by providing $100 per student, up from $75 in the current year, and usually provides bonuses to teachers at the receiving schools.
    • Merit Award Program (MAP) - Participating school districts and charter schools give top teachers a bonus equaling five to ten percent of the district’s average teacher salary.
    • Bonuses for College-level Course Exams - Teachers of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced International Certificate of Education courses earn a $50 bonus (up to $2,000 total) for each student who achieves a qualifying score on exams that are benchmarked nationally and internationally. Governor Crist recommended increasing through legislation the bonuses for teachers in these programs and removing the $2,000 cap on the amount teachers will earn.
  • Class Size – In 2002, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to reduce class sizes by 2010 to 18 students in prekindergarten through third grades, 22 students in fourth through eighth grades, and 25 students in ninth through 12th grades. As a result, 97 percent of traditional public schools’ classroom averages now meet constitutional requirements. To achieve this goal, Florida has invested $15.8 billion in reducing class sizes at all grade levels since the 2002-03 school year.

While Governor Crist expressed his continued support for limiting class sizes, he recommended providing school districts the flexibility in implementing the class size requirements in order to avoid continued increasing operational and construction costs. In this spirit, the Governor announced his plan for legislation modifying the constitutional class-size requirements by calculating class-size compliance at the school level. The average class size for schools will remain at current levels, with no individual class exceeding the limit by three or more students in grades K through 3, or five or more students in grades 4 through 12.

Seminole Compact
Governor Crist again called upon the Legislature to approve the revised compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to provide funding for education programs. The Governor’s proposed budget includes $433 million, including monies already paid by the Seminoles and a projected amount expected to be collected through the end of Fiscal Year 2010-11.
Race to the Top
Governor Crist commended Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith and the visionary teachers, superintendents and school boards that have partnered with the Florida Department of Education to apply for federal Race to the Top funds. Florida’s past education reform efforts could qualify Florida for more than $1.1 billion over four years to further increase student achievement, teacher effectiveness and the talent pool of Florida’s graduates and workforce.

Through the federal Race to the Top competition, the U.S. Department of Education has challenged all 50 states to propose bold education reforms focused on helping struggling schools, elevating the effectiveness of teaching professionals and education leaders, building internationally recognized education standards and assessments, and improving state education data systems. Phase I winners of the competition are expected to be announced in mid-April of 2010.