June 18, 2024

Education Advocates, Parents Call on Florida Legislature to Fully Fund Public Schools

Florida has Shortchanged Education for Decades

MIAMI, Fla. - P.S. 305 and Florida Policy Institute (FPI) today hosted a press conference with local groups and parents in front of the Miami Dade County Public School Board Administration Building to highlight the harmful impact of chronically underfunding K-12 public education in the Sunshine State, and to call on Florida lawmakers to address the needs of public-school families.

The briefing preceded the Miami-Dade school board’s vote on whether Shadowlawn Elementary and Parkview Elementary — schools serving historically Black and immigrant communities — will be repurposed.

Mina Hosseini, executive director of P.S. 305, said: "The word ‘choice’ has come up a lot in the last few years, but today we are shining a light on the ‘choice’ of the Legislature and the DeSantis administration to defund public schools in the interest of the private sector — and urging them to reverse course, by fully funding the ‘choice’ of families who seek to raise their children in their community, traditional public schools. These schools are pillars of our communities. Today, we ask Secretary Manny Diaz, what about the choice of Parkview and Shadowlawn families? The choices that led us here are not parents’ choices but legislators’ choice."

Norín Dollard, Ph.D., senior policy analyst and KIDS COUNT director at FPI, said: “Florida is a chronically underfunded state. Whereas in 2004, the per pupil spending was ranked 44th nationwide, 20 years later we are ranked 42nd. Florida’s underinvestment in public education is only exacerbated by the $3.9 billion dollars allocated in the next fiscal year to vouchers that leave public schools and go to private school and home-schooled students. This leaves districts having to make decisions to close schools and usurp parents’ choice to send their children to their neighborhood schools.”

Harold Ford, president of the South Dade Branch of the NAACP, said: "Today, I stand deeply concerned about the Florida Legislature's continued efforts to defund public education. This action threatens the quality of education for more than 85 percent of Florida students who rely on our public school system. By stripping away essential resources, we are not only undermining the future of our children but also jeopardizing the economic and social well-being of our entire state. Every student deserves access to a high-quality education, and we must prioritize and protect our public schools to ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed."

Daniella Pierre, president of Miami-Dade County Branch of the NAACP, said: “Today, the day before Juneteenth, a day meant for celebration of the ongoing struggle for liberation–- today, the school board of Miami Dade is set to vote to repurpose Parkview and Shadowlawn Elementaries — schools serving majority Black and immigrant families. These are schools with tight-knit communities, whose parents are upset that the long-standing underfunding by the Legislature is disproportionately impacting communities of color in Florida. We need our lawmakers to fully fund our public schools."

Zico Fremont, parent of a student at Shadowlawn Elementary, said: “Recent legislative cuts have severely impacted our school funding, leading to a shortage of resources and the elimination of important programs. These changes undermine the quality of education and the well-being of our children. I urge lawmakers to reconsider these funding decisions to ensure our schools can provide the education and support our children deserve.”

Florida lawmakers have for decades neglected public K-12 education.

This chronic underfunding has manifested in numerous ways across the state, particularly in Miami-Dade County, including cuts to programming, school consolidations, school buildings in need of critical repair, and low teacher salaries — all of which have undermined public schools’ ability to offer transformative educational experiences, especially in communities of color. This reality that local families are facing contradicts claims that Florida has a universal “choice” education system.Historical underinvestment in Florida schools has been compounded by legislation undermining capital funding for traditional public schools and lawmakers’ recent expansion of the state’s voucher program. Lawmakers have allocated roughly $3.9 billion for universal vouchers in fiscal year 2024-25, diverting crucial education dollars away from teacher pay increases, enrichment programs, and basic building maintenance.

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