The Brink Report has developed a plan that should save Florida taxpayers $4 Billion annually.
It is clear that both private schools and public schools have certain distinct advantages over each other, but society has historically accepted both venues as desirable methods to educate America’s children. There are many students currently attending private schools and their families are paying an unreasonable premium for this option. At the same time, many students will never have this opportunity to attend private schools under the current political and fiscal structure due to the prohibitive costs of supporting the public system while simultaneously paying for a private education. A common-sense change in the current structure not only could save Florida’s taxpayers billions of dollars, but also avail many students additional educational opportunities.
There is little doubt that this plan will be roundly condemned by teacher’s unions and liberal spenders. It gives students and parents an opportunity to take personal control over their educational endeavors and that seems antithetical to the goals of unionists. That aspect, in itself must not be allowed to halt progress in the effort to both improve and make affordable Florida’s education system. Oddly enough, a measure such as this may actually preserve union participation in education for a number of reasons, the main of which is that, under current trends of increasing costs and unsatisfactory performance, taxpayers may become so incensed as to begin urging legislative suppression of union activities.
Florida History: In 2003-04, Florida’s “current expenditures” on education, which consist mostly of day-to-day expenses,
amounted to $17.6 billion or $6,931 per student. Current expenditures per student in the five largest districts,
which include half of all Florida students, were:
Broward County: $6,976
Hillsborough County: $7,156
Miami-Dade County: $7,309
Orange County: $6,914
Palm Beach County: $7,424
Florida’s “current expenditures” per student rose by nearly 9 percent from 1996 to 2002, adjusting for
inflation. This represents an increase of $462 per student after inflation. Expenditures began to grow slightly faster after 1999.
Data suggests that the growth in Florida’s current expenditures continued at least through 2003-04, making it likely that current spending are significantly greater than $7,000 in 2005-06.
When the capital costs and debt service necessary to run the school system are included, Florida spent a total of more than $22 billion on education, or $8,735 per student, in 2003-04. Source: collinscenter.org/resource/resmgr/Education_Docs/Ed_Spending_Study.pdf
As is evident, the spending required to support exclusively public education has increased to unsustainable levels. It is unclear how much influence teacher’s unions have affected these trends, however it is difficult to deny that union policies have driven education costs to some extent. At the same time, there are serious concerns about the quality of the public educations that Florida’s students receive. It does not appear that increased spending has increased the quality of education in a proportionate manner.
The one thing that does seem clear is that students in private schools, or home schooled generally do accomplish more academically.
Presently ,in most cases, when a student in Florida attends a private school, the family has to pay the student’s full educational costs at the private school, while at the same time, funding the public education system. It is a double penalty for seeking control of a child’s educational pursuits.
There is a win/win remedy: Simply pay every student’s parents or guardians (those who would pay for a private education for the student) one-third of the amount they would have cost the taxpayers in the public system. This can be done in various ways and safe-guards would have to be put in place to assure that the students who left the public sector actually do achieve educational levels as expected. Standardized tests would demonstrate this performance, or other measures could be used. Students with special needs may have to be included in an evaluation system that includes an individualized education and evaluation plan. Further, measures would have to be put into place to guarantee that the funds contributed were actually used for acceptable educational expenses. A program could be devised so that the funds go into an Educational Savings Account for each student that opts to attend private school or home-school with specific standards for spending prescribed before disbursement to the providers.
An analysis of a system to provide a private option for Florida students estimates that 4 Billion or more of taxpayer dollars could be saved. Here is how dollars are saved:
Assuming Florida spends over $20 Billion annually funding public education in the K-12 grades. These costs will likely increase drastically as the recently passed “class size” amendment is phased in.
Assume at least $9000 annually will be required for students in the public system.
Under this plan, if only 30% of Florida’s students opted for private education due to the funding opportunity, it means that those students would be funded at only $3000 annually instead of $9000. In reality, these savings could be higher.
Assuming the costs would be 70% for those in public schools, plus one-third of the cost for the 30% opting for private education (1/3 of 30% equals 10%). The resulting cost would be 80% of the current funding. This is a savings of 20% annually. 20% of the estimated $20 Billion annually will result in an annual savings of $4 Billion.