TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Rick Scott announced Feb. 25 that as a tribute to exemplary student performance, almost 1,700 schools throughout Florida will share $134.6 million in School Recognition Program funding this year.
Florida’s School Recognition Program acknowledges the quality of public schools by giving financial rewards based on sustained or significantly improved student achievement in reading, mathematics, science and writing.
Scott said, “Schools that demonstrate improved performance for students should be rewarded for their hard work. This investment of $134 million for schools across Florida will build on the recent gains that teachers have made for Florida students by providing each and every child with a quality education, so our students can one day find a great job and live their version of the American Dream.
“Thanks to our hardworking teachers, Florida is soaring to the top of education rankings throughout the country. Just last week, we learned Florida students are number one for percentage of students taking an AP exam, which comes on the heels of a Quality Counts survey that says the Sunshine State jumped from 11th to sixth in the country for the overall quality of our education system.”
Schools eligible for recognition awards include those receiving an “A” school grade, improving at least one letter grade from the previous year, or improving more than one letter grade and sustaining the improvement the following school year. Alternative schools that increase their school improvement rating or are rated “Improving” also qualify for awards.
Schools in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, including Citrus, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties will share $26,825,311 in recognition funding.
The school staff and school advisory council at each recognized school jointly decide how to use the financial award. Schools may use their award for faculty or staff bonuses, to purchase educational equipment or materials, or hire temporary staff to help maintain or improve student performance.
“Rewarding Florida’s schools and teachers for improved student achievement is the right thing to do,” said Commissioner of Education Dr. Tony Bennett. “Teachers are the driving force behind higher student achievement and deserve to be rewarded for their hard work and dedication. I commend Gov. Scott for recognizing the importance of our quality educators and by calling for an increased in school recognition funding.”
As part of his Florida Families First Budget, Scott requested an increase in School Recognition Program funding to $125 per student, up from $93 this year. The Florida Families First Budget includes $18.47 billion in total funding for K-12 education, an increase of $1.25 billion, or 7.3 percent, over last year’s budget, which also invested 1 billion in K-12 education.
This increase represents per student funding of $6,800, an increase of more than $400, or around 6.5 percent, over the current fiscal year.
State funding for K-12 education totals $10.7 billion – the highest state funding level in history. Included in this historic total is $480 million to support $2,500 pay raises for Florida’s K-12 classroom teachers, plus the cost of associated benefits.
The School Recognition Program was created by the Florida Legislature in 1997 to reward schools for high or sustained improvement in student performance. Since then, Florida lawmakers continued their commitment to the program by providing funding through the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. Nearly $1.5 billion has been awarded to high performing schools since the program began.