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Board of Education budget forecasts show a $ 5.6 million deficit for families applying for state scholarships

Jennifer Cabrera

Conclusion: The number of students in traditional district schools declined in 2020-21 and recovered only slightly, but the number of families choosing state scholarships and homeschooling has increased significantly. As a result, the budget deficit for Alachua County Public Schools from 2022 to 2011 is projected to be $ 5.6 million.

In a budget announcement to the Aratua County Board of Education on May 11, the number of students in the district increased rapidly, but the scholarship program (the tuition paid by the state to private schools) increased and the number of students in the district increased. Was shown to be increasing. Schools have only recovered slightly from the decline seen in 2020-21. The FTE in the graph above is students, and the number of students in charter schools is almost constant from the 2013-14 school year, but the number of students in district schools will increase until 2019-20 and decrease by about 1,000 in 2020. It was -21, and it is predicted that only a small part of the decline will be recovered throughout the 2022-23 school year. Meanwhile, the number of students in the scholarship program surged from hundreds in 2019-20 to about 2,000 in 2022-23.

It is important to note that the forecasts are based on scholarship applications approved in the last year. It is unclear how many of these families will find a seat in an independent school or decide to return to school in their district. However, this year around 1,300 students participated in these scholarship programs.

Alex Rella, Finance Head of Aratua County Public School, said the FTE is “the most important part of the budget” because it promotes both income and costs per student, including bus drivers and teachers. I told the meeting. In the 2021-22 academic year, the number of students enrolled in traditional schools in the district was below expectations by 665, and the number of students in scholarship programs was above expectations by 824.

The number of scholarship and homeschooling students has increased significantly since the 2019-20 academic year.

Rera told the board: “In my opinion, empowerment scholarships are the only biggest threat to education from an economic perspective. Parents have a lot of options. To be competitive, you need to change your mindset in different ways. I think there is. ”Rera said that 70-80% of the students who switched to homeschooling during COVID thought they would return to school in the district, but that has not happened.

With this year’s amendment, Rera said the school district will not receive funding under the school accreditation program, regardless of the school district’s grade.

According to Rera, current budget forecasts have increased funding by about $ 18 million, but if the scholarship program’s forecasts are accurate, $ 14.6 million will be deducted, an increase of only $ 4.7 million. increase. The additional district costs required for the next year will be $ 11.3 million.

That leads to an estimated budget deficit of $ 5.6 million. “In my opinion, we aren’t running very efficiently, so there’s definitely an opportunity to cut costs by making the board more efficient,” Rera added.

Director Tina Sargent asked for efficiency details, but Rera said the staff should bring back some potential items after discussing with Shane Andrew. One also asked Rella to return suggestions on how to legally use ESSER and ARP funds to reduce the deficit.

To conclude that part of the meeting, Chairman of the Board Robert Hyatt said: We have to be the choices parents want … we need to keep improving what we offer … we need to make sure that we promote what we are doing. “