Florida Lawmakers Eye Change In Divvying Up School Money

May 13, 2019

A long-controversial part of the state’s formula for distributing money to public schools could be headed toward a change.

Lawmakers on Saturday passed a budget-related bill (SB 2502) that requires taking steps to revamp what is known as the “District Cost Differential,” a key factor in divvying up money among school districts.

The so-called DCD is a price-level index that is supposed to help measure how much it costs to hire teachers and other school employees in different parts of the state.

But some school districts have long complained that they get shortchanged and that the state should move to a wage-level index. The bill passed Saturday directs the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Democratic Research to come up with a way to calculate each district’s wage-level index and to compare that with the price-level index.

The office will be required to submit a “transition plan” to legislative leaders and Gov. Ron DeSantis by October 1. But carrying out that transition plan could not occur without approval from the House and Senate.

Any changes to the DCD are controversial because they can financially benefit some districts while hurting others.

The last big debate about the DCD came in 2003 and 2004 when then-Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville, pushed through changes.

A key part of the debate involved factoring in the presence of “amenities,” such as proximity to beaches, in looking at where people want to live and how much they are willing to accept as wages.

Some beachfront school districts have long argued that they have been penalized by factoring amenities into the equation.