Florida Department of Education: 2,500 Displaced Haitian Students Already Enrolled in Florida Schools; 10,000 Expected

Mar 5, 2010

The News Service of Florida reported today, March 5, 2010, that, according to the Florida Department of Education, over 2,500 students displaced by the recent Haitian earthquake have enrolled in Florida schools to date.  As many as 10,000 are expected during 2010.

Florida legislators comment on related budget issues in the story, which is reprinted below.

To access Florida Department of Education updates on Haiti relief efforts, click here.

Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Colodny Fass.


THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA:  Florida Lawmakers Plan for Extra Haitian Students in Budget


THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, March 5, 2010….. A large influx of Haitian students into Florida schools has lawmakers and education officials bracing for an even tougher budget outlook for the state’s public schools.

Earlier this week, state economists told lawmakers of a $1 billion shortfall just for education spending, leaving legislators to break the news to school administrators that they will probably see fewer dollars for the 2010-2011 school year.

“It’s just really tough, it’s going to be really tough,” said Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, who chairs the Senate’s public schools budget committee.

A sharp drop in local funds generated by property taxes is the major factor in the education budget woes, but, the potential influx of students has the potential to put the education budget further out of whack.

More than 2,500 Haitian students have enrolled in Florida schools since the massive earthquake hit the tiny island nation earlier this year. The state Department of Education estimates that that number could go as high as 10,000.

“We are in the process of requesting federal assistance to help on that,” said state Education Commissioner Eric Smith. “But again, our districts have been managing it well at this point, so we’re going to get through this.”

For now though, Wise and his House counterpart Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, have to construct budgets that assume there will be many more students in Florida classrooms next fall. Wise said it will be virtually impossible to keep per pupil funding on par with 2009/2010, let alone boost it to keep up with other rising costs and school district needs.

School funding has been on a downward spiral for the past few years. In 2007-2008, the per pupil spending was $7,126, the following year it was $6,844, and this year it is $6,873

When asked by reporters, Gov. Charlie Crist said the potential for the state to receive federal money from the Race to the Top grant program may solve some of the problems, but those dollars come attached to strings and can’t necessarily replace the reductions in per pupil funding.

Regardless, lawmakers have to plan for more Haitian immigrants, with or without federal assistance.

“Absolutely,” Wise said. “We have to.”

Smith told reporters that budgets “are always a concern” but remained hopeful that the Legislature would reach some sort of funding mechanism by May, when it concludes its work on the state budget.

“My brief history here in Florida is the legislature has always done its very best to fund education at the level it needs to be funded,” Smith said.


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