Last month, Hillsborough County Public School (HCPS) parents received messages from Superintendent Jeff Eakins letting them know that the education budget approved by Governor Scott for 2018-19 included less funding for schools than they were expecting. A group of activists, led by FishHawk resident Melissa Erickson, wants to help voters determine what to do about it.

“We were expecting more funding for our students than what was approved,” said Eakins, in the message that went out to parents on March 22. “Especially since the state has billions of dollars available to fund both school security and classroom needs.”

According to Eakins, the state budget includes an increase of just $0.47 cents per student in flexible funding for the HCPS district. A number that Erickson finds unforgivable considering that Florida children currently receive approximately $4,000 less funding, per child, per year than the national average.

“It’s a joke,” she said. “We are facing 25 plus years of chronic under-funding. Our children are worth the same as children in other states.”

In addition to the already low per-child budget, the school district has been given what Eakins expects to amount to $35.8 million in additional mandated expenses for new school resource officers, increased retirement contributions and health care costs, among others.

“For months, we have been putting cost-saving steps in place across our district and have saved millions of dollars,” he said. “These steps will definitely help, but the amount of funding in this state budget is far lower than we had expected.”

He went on to ask voters to let state leaders know they support funding of public schools, something Erickson also feels is vitally important.

“People need to inform themselves on how their elected officials are advocating for public schools, then show up and ask them, and those running for office, the hard questions,” she said.
“Being fired up about issues with your friends and on social media doesn’t change policy. The only way things are going to change is if we elect people who are going to make changes.”

Erickson’s group, The Alliance for Public Schools, was formed in 2012 with a mission to educate, engage and inspire families and communities to collectively support high quality public schools and the children who attend them.

The group hosts events, such as Parent University, to educate residents and speak regularly on issues important to public education around the community. To learn more, search for the group on Facebook or visit www.all4schools.org.

For more information on HCPS, visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us.