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Issues and Voices that Matter September 14, 2010

Orange County School Funding

US Currency: photo courtesy Adrian van Leen; graphic - CMF Public MediaHear remarks from 2 subject matter specialists from Orange County Public Schools address how public education is funded in Orange County. Rick Collins – chief financial officer of Orange County Public Schools and Dr. William Gordon – executive director of the county’s East Learning Community and a former principal of Winter Park High School discuss the formula used by the state of Florida to determine which counties gets how much funding… how the funds are spent at the state, county and local level… and what this all mean to you– the parent, the caregiver and the taxpayer – and particularly the student. Feature Length — 00:59:57


US Currency: photo courtesy Adrian van Leen

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League of Women Voters of Orange County Florida present a Hot Topic Luncheon entitled “Our Children, Our Schools, Our Money – Getting to the Bottom of Public School Funding.” The event is moderated by league member Sarah Sprinkel and hosted by Charley Williams, president of the League of Women Voters of Orange County.

The next Hot Topics luncheon will be Wednesday, October 6, 20101, featuring a debate between Orange County Mayoral Candidates Teresa Jacobs and Bill Segal. More Information

Featured Speakers

Speaker Rick Collins, Chief Financial Officer, Orange County Public Schools (photo - CMF Public Media)
Rick Collins
Chief Financial Officer
Orange County Public Schools

bio | website
Mr. Collins’ slide presentation (PDF, 24 pages, 919kb)

Speaker - Dr. William Gordon, Executive Director,  East Learning Community, Orange County Public Schools  (photo - CMF Public Media)
Dr. William Gordon
Executive Director
East Learning Community
Orange County Public Schools

website

Facilitating Participants

Sarah Sprinkel, moderator
Sarah Sprinkel
Moderator
Event host - Charley Williams, President League of Women Voters of Orange County (photo - CMF Public Media)
Charley Williams
President, League of Women Voters of Orange County

website

Pictures

“Various Luncheon Pictures” Photo Credit – GK Sharmin

After you launch the slideshow below, click “Next” and “Previous” to rotate through the photos.

Left, speaker Rick Collins, Chief Financial Officer, Orange County Public Schools;  Sarah Sprinkel, event moderator; and speaker Dr. William Gordon, Executive Director,  East Learning Community,  Orange County Public Schools (photo - CMF Public Media)

Panel Discussion Summary

written by Sara B. Au, Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of Orange County

Rick Collins took the audience through a presentation explaining the sources of Orange County Public School (OCPS) funding, as well as the factors that affect funding, such as millage rates, property taxes and student enrollment. He reported that Orange County is the 10th largest school district in the USA, and the total budget includes the following:

  • $595 million from state sources
  • $520 million from local property taxes
  • $59 million from federal stabilization funds, which we are receiving for the last time this year
  • And $21 million from a critical needs millage (1/4 mill) which also runs out this year

When the $59 million and $21 million goes away at the end of the year, OCPS faces what Collins, the school board and the media are calling “the funding cliff,” off which the schools are feared to plummet in June 2011.

“I know everyone always says, ‘Why don’t you just cut administration costs?’” stated Collins, who went on to explain that 75% of the entire OCPS budget goes to instruction costs, including teacher salaries. “Florida is the 2nd lowest in administrative spending per student across the nation, and OCPS is the 3rd lowest in the state.”

Collins explained the Class Size Reduction Amendment 8 which will appear on the state ballot this November, as well as the special millage assessment on which Orange County residents will vote. This cliff, stated Collins, is why the school board started looking at solutions so OCPS doesn’t have to rely on unreliable federal or state funds come June. We wanted, he said, “to give voters a chance to tell us: What do you want education funding in Orange County to look like?”

“We have to fill this gap,” he said, which breaks down to approximately $494 per student.

Dr. Bill Gordon, a 26-year veteran with OCPS including 15 years as a principal, highlighted the role principal’s play in budgeting, walking the audience step by step through the process. “It is a challenge,” he stated. “It’s amazing to me that educators have so much come at them and still make it work.”

The budget process, he said, is cyclical. In November, principal’s start making student body number projections, which are then used to determine per student funding, and are reconciled throughout the year.

“In November, we receive work from the Pupil Assignment office about the count for next year, and they fund us based on that number, so it’s important to get that right.” After the projections, Gordon explained, by January or February a principal will start scheduling classes for the following year, seeing what classes to offer. By March a budget is typically finalized, although sometimes it takes a bit longer. By April 1st, though, everything is normally set so a principal can start offering contracts to staff for the following year.

A typical school’s budget is 90% personnel costs, and there, stated Gordon, is the rub, especially this year with the implementation of the class size amendment which requires a limit on the number of students a single class in the four core areas of language arts, science, math and social studies, along with some other classes, can include. So, when a principal is planning courses a year ahead based on projections of student body numbers, but then those numbers are different the next fall, a principal must decide whether to cut classes or hire more teachers when their budget is already stretched to the limit.

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