The general fund budget for Leon County Schools is being hit with an unanticipated $11.5 million decrease.
According to an item approved by Leon County School Board members on Tuesday, the decrease is the result of adjustments related to the Family Empowerment and McKay Scholarship school choice programs.
Last year the impact was significantly less – approximately $3 million.
The state sanctioned scholarships provide opportunities for qualifying families to choose where they send their children to school.
For example, the McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities is providing nearly 30,000 Florida students with special needs the opportunity to attend a participating private school. The McKay Scholarship Program also offers parents the choice to transfer their eligible child to another public school.
The Family Empowerment Scholarship Program is designed to offer families of students with disabilities, as young as 3 years of age, access to additional education options. Families may choose to enroll their student in another public school, or they may take the opportunity to receive a personal education savings account (ESA) for their student. An ESA can be used to fund not only items such as private school tuition and fees, but also online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, higher education expenses and other approved customized learning services and materials.
In Leon County, the Family Empowerment Scholarships represents approximately 1,300 Student FTE, which equates to $10,945,603. McKay Scholarships represent approximately 175 Student FTE, which equates to $2,005,286. The students that are included in these numbers are reported under LCS, but the funds are allocated to the individual private schools, therefore, it is a reduction in the estimated funds the school district receives.
The school district sets aside funds for these anticipated decreases, however, this year the actual FTE in these programs were much higher than what LCS had anticipated.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Leon County School Board Chairman Daryl Jones requested that Superintendent Hanna schedule a workshop focused on explaining the specific impact of these scholarships on LCS finances.