From: Jan Russo
RE: Legislative Update: A bill that will negatively affect reading funding passes Senate committee
March 25, 2009
There is no doubt that reading coaches have directly impacted the great reading gains Florida’s students have been achieving for the past decade. Unfortunately, this has not deterred lawmakers this session from filing bills to jeopardize this progress.
SB 2254, sponsored by Senator Nancy Detert (R – Sarasota), made it through the Senate Pre K – 12 committee on March 18th with a unanimous 7 to 0 vote. The bill’s next stop is the Senate Pre K – 12 Appropriations committee, though it has not yet been put on an agenda. This bill will allow school districts to spend reading funds on other things. Reading coaches are primarily funded through these “supplemental reading instruction” funds which were instituted in under the Just Read, Florida! initiative. Diverting these funds allows school districts to use the money for other purposes, instead of using it towards the improvement of our students’ reading skills.
Currently, we at the Foundation for Florida’s Future are urging lawmakers to protect reading funds and make sure they are dedicated to reading. As a reading coach you can help! You can contact Senator Detert to let her know all the great things these funds do for our students’ reading and how vital they are to our children’s education.
So much progress has been made in student reading, and we cannot sacrifice a single year in the fight to ensure quality education for all of Florida’s children.
As an addendum to Jan Russo's report on SB 2254, I mentioned to you before that the reading funds would be in jeopardy for other uses.
I pulled up the bill analysis of SB 2254 and thought you would be interested in more detail. Hope this gives more light on the issue. It reads:
Florence Brainerd, FRA's Legislative Advocate, was able to access an analysis of SB 2254 to give members more clarity on the issue.
I. Summary: The bill allows a district school board to transfer funds for safe schools, supplemental academic instruction, "supplemental reading instruction", the Teachers Lead Program, and the Florida School Recognition Program from its operating budget to the appropriate account for expenditures. The bill expands the flexibility that currently exists for districts to transfer categorical funds by providing that the funds may be used for operating purposes. The authority to transfer and use these funds is repealed June 30, 2010.
II. Present Situation on Categorical Funds: Current law provides that categorical funds may be appropriated for specific programs, purposes, and activities. If a district school board adopts a resolution indicating that the funds received for categorical appropriations are urgently needed to maintain academic classroom instruction, the board may approve an amendment to the school district's operating budget transferring the categorical funds to the appropriate account for expenditure. The transfer may be made for categorical funds for student transportation, safe schools, and supplemental academic instruction. In 2008, the Legislature provided for the transfer of funds for "research-based reading instruction" and instructional materials if all instructional material purchases were completed for that fiscal year, but no sooner than March 1, 2009. Effective July 1, 2009, this flexibility will apply on to funds for student transportation, safe schools, and supplemental academic instruction.
III. Effect of Proposed Changes: The bill allows a district school board to transfer funds for safe schools, supplemental academic instruction, "supplemental reading instruction", the Teachers Lead Program, and the Florida School Recognition Program from its operating budget to the appropriate account for expenditures. The bill expands the flexibility that currently exists for districts to transfer funds from student transportation categorical funds, safe schools, supplemental academic instruction, and the "reading allocation" by providing that the funds may be used for operating purposes. Currently, the funds may only be transferred for specified academic classroom instruction.
To use this flexibility, a school board must adopt a resolution indicating that funds are urgently needed to maintain school board operating expe nses and approve an amendment to the district's 2009-2010 operating budget to transfer the funds. the authority to transfer and use these funds is repealed June 30, 2010. The bill also requires legislative review of the transfer of funds in the fiscal year in which the transfers occur. DOE notes that districts would have to amend their operating budgets and the board resolutions and report the transfer of funds to the DOE as they occur, rather than at the end of the fiscal year in the annual financial report.