Q&A – Should Floridians be refunded due to lower school enrollment?

Q&A of the Day – Should Floridians be refunded due to lower school enrollment?

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Parler & Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Today’s entry: If there are “missing students” aren’t we “missing” our money? We should be refunded if student enrollment is lower.

Bottom Line: I’m going to answer your question by simply saying yes. There are no taxes more regressive than property taxes in my view. They’re the only taxes which could literally leave you homeless – even if you’ve paid off your home. And the majority of what we pay our property taxes for in South Florida are public schools. Your question also hits at an important dynamic with funding. Enrollment is directly tied to levels of funding. So, let’s dive in and see how much we’ve being overpaying this school year based on the recently reported lower enrollment.

  • Florida’s public-school enrollment (K-12) currently totals 2.8 million students
  • An estimated 87,811 fewer students enrolled for the 2020-2021 school year than were budgeted for by officials

On a percentage basis the “missing” students, as they’ve been called, is a low percentage of the overall population, at 3.1%. But there’s nothing small about the money represented by that 3.1%. Total funding for per pupil in Florida stands at $10,715 currently. That means we’ve overpaid for our schools to the tune of $940,894,865 this year – based sheerly on student enrollment. What does it equal for you? There are 7.9 million households in Florida. That means if we were to be refunded for what we’ve overpaid we’d receiving an average of $119 per household. It’s not a huge windfall but I’m rather certain that you’d rather have $119 today than not having it given the option. Moreover, for those struggling most right now, how significant is that money?

That’s not even factoring in the significant cost savings associated online education as opposed to classroom education. As I outlined last July, there’s an approximate savings of $450 per pupil, per month, with online education as compared to classroom education (using cost comparisons of Florida’s Virtual School compared to traditional public school). Now, the actual savings will certainly be less than that amount with schools open whether students attend or not, however it’s a given that students learning remotely require fewer resources than those learning in-person. The bottom line...

It’s a given we’ve overpaid for public education in Florida this year. Also, it’s worth mentioning, all South Florida school districts increased their budgets for the 2020-2021 school year. This was largely based upon the windfall record property taxes which rolled in. I agree with your assertion that we’re due refunds. There will literally be South Floridians who can’t afford to pay their property taxes and will be at risk of losing their homes. As the school districts make excuses as to why there isn’t a surplus of money and hide behind our children. It’s also a reminder about how important each and every school board election is to all of us.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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