Florida’s education funding has always been inadequate, perpetuating two separate and unequal systems, one for white students and one for Black students. In 1866, the Legislature enacted laws that provided a tax-funded education system for white students but required that schools for Black students only be funded through taxes levied on freed Black men. In the 1950s, the Pork Chop Gang wielded their power to fight desegregation in Florida’s schools and to keep funding for the state’s education system low. Underfunding persisted through the next several decades and then took a major blow when the Great Recession hit in 2008.
Spurred by the fallout of the housing market, the Great Recession was the worst economic recession that the nation had seen since the Great Depression of the 1920s. State governments had to deal with massive and swift drops in revenue, forcing them to make significant funding cuts to programs across the board. Education, being one of the largest portions of state budgets, saw major funding cuts. Then Governor Christ approved an overall budget that was reduced $5 billion from the previous year’s $70 billion and included cuts to the Base Student Allocation of $125 per pupil.
The Base Student Allocation (BSA) – the state’s portion of education funding for districts – started to increase again in 2012 and today it is, on the face of it, the largest BSA funded in Florida’s history. However, this does not account for the effects of inflation, and what the value of the BSA is today compared to 2008. After adjusting for inflation, or accounting for the impact of price increases, the 2023 BSA still lags the BSA from 2008. The BSA decreased by 14 percent between 2008 and 2023.
The impact of the Great Recession continues to be felt today, as Florida’s education system has yet to recover from funding cuts of the recession. In other words, 15 years later, the state’s investment in public education is still lower than it was before the Great Recession. This chronic underfunding sets the stage for widespread privatization of education and perpetuating a two-tiered system of education.