FILE - Florida schools report card portal

Florida Department of Education's online school report card portal

The Florida Department of Education (FDE) has released its annual “report card” assessment of the state’s 3,600 public schools in academic performance and spending.

But this year’s “report card” includes a new component. Instead of breaking down spending by district, the 2018-19 version also includes a school-by-school breakdown of per-pupil expenditures.

The school-by-school per-pupil spending breakout is a transparency provision in the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that went into effect this year nationwide.

The new per-student expenditure tab within the 2018-19 FDE school year “report card,” based on 2017-18 school finance data, is certain to provide a literal treasure trove of data for taxpayers and state lawmakers in determining where and how education dollars are being spent across Florida.

To access the per-pupil expenditures from the FDE’s EduData Portal main page, click on School Report Cards and a ’School Report Card Selector’ tab will appear.

The table allows users to search school-by-school student spending by district or simply by individual school.

In selecting two random elementary schools in Polk County – a central Florida county school district with more than 150 schools and serving more than 100,000 students – as comparative examples, variations in school-to-school per-pupil spending are readily apparent.

The report card for Alta Vista Elementary School in Haines City shows it has 751 pre-K through fifth-grade students and 44 teachers.

The school, in an agricultural area, rates 100 percent of its students as “economically disadvantaged” with 71 percent of its enrollment Hispanic, 16.5 percent African American and 10.3 percent white.

More than 42 percent are defined as “English Language Learners,” likely a significant contributor to its "D" grade with 35 percent of its students meeting grade-level “learning gains” in English language arts, mathematics and science.

The page offers breakdowns in individual tabs in:

  • Assessments - Academic Achievement, Growth, and Participation
  • Assessments - English Language Learners
  • Acceleration Success
  • Discipline and Attendance
  • Graduation and Beyond
  • Educator Qualifications and Equity
  • Long-Term Goals and Interim Progress
  • Accelerated Course Enrollment
  • Preschool Enrollment
  • Per-Pupil Expenditures
  • National Data

The report card breaks down Alta Vista’s spending by “2017-18 School Costs Per Pupil” and “2017-18 District Indirect Costs Per Pupil,” which are costs incurred at the district level and allocated to each school, and include student support services, general administration, centralized services and school board.

According to the breakdown, spending per student at Alta Vista Elementary was $8,970.

Each student received the equivalent of $8,762 in direct “school costs per pupil,” including $7,466 in state and local funds and $1,296 in federal money.

In addition, each student received $208 in “indirect costs per pupil,” all but $2 in state and local money.

The report card for Carlton Palmore Elementary School in Lakeland shows it has 433 pre-K through fifth-grade students with 32 teachers.

The school, in Lakeland’s Cleveland Heights neighborhood, rates 93 percent of its students as “economically disadvantaged” with 46 percent of its enrollment white, 27 percent African American and 22 percent Hispanic.

Carlton Palmore earned a "B" grade with 55 percent of its students meeting or exceeding grade-level “learning gains” in English language arts, mathematics and science.

The school’s per-pupil expenditures show each student received the equivalent of $9,303 in funding in 2017-18 – $333 more than each student at Alta Vista Elementary.

Carlton Palmore students received $8,307 in direct state/local funds and $783 in federal money, as well as $213 in “indirect” funding, all but $3 in state and local money.

The most significant difference in spending between the two elementary schools in the same county school district is in funding from state and local sources.

Alta Vista received $7,466 in state and local funds while Carlton Palmore was allocated $8,307 – a difference of $841 per student.

That disparity was partially remedied through federal funding. Alta Vista received $1,296 in federal money per student while Carlton Palmore was allocated $783 in federal money for each student – a difference of $513.

The comparison between Alta Vista and Carlton Palmore, a random contrast from a casually selected school district, underscores the value of the new tool which will, undoubtedly, be frequently referenced by lawmakers as they deliberate on the fiscal year 2021 budget beginning in September committee hearings in anticipation of the 2020 session, which begins Jan. 14.