It’s been said that education is "the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” But Tallahassee has transformed that golden door into lead when it comes to the finances of many school districts across Florida.
Volusia County taxpayers, parents and students are getting robbed along with 54 other school districts in Florida. A funding formula called the District Cost Differential (DCD) steals local tax dollars we send to Tallahassee and redistributes them to only a dozen counties that inexplicably wield the power to take the money because the state Legislature said they could.
The DCD was created in 2004 after the Florida Legislature initiated a study on funding formulas for the state’s 67 school districts. Since that time, numerous districts have found themselves sending more to Tallahassee than they get in return. Counties like Volusia, Lake, Flagler, Osceola and Brevard, among others, are forced to subsidize wealthier districts like Broward, Duval, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Volusia County Schools has lost approximately $140 million under this legalized robbery. Lake County has lost some $57 million. Though Volusia ranked 13th and Lake County is ranked 19th in student enrollment, we are funded as if we are 56th and they are 66th. The inequity affecting each and every student is stark, damaging and clearly unjust.
Our students are left with fewer supplies, our teachers are denied additional salary increases, affected districts struggle to stay afloat while our taxpayers’ money is shifted to assist other counties which clearly don’t need our help. This Reverse Robin Hood scheme is educational socialism running amok and it’s educational malpractice that would even make a personal injury attorney blush.
University of Florida Professor Dr. David Denslow, who helped conduct the initial study, is on record acknowledging its imperfections and the need for a new approach. I believe that the DCD should be put to rest permanently. I support a change to state law to ensure that no school district receive less in state education funding than what it sends in local tax dollars to fund education.
As chair of the Volusia County School Board and a mother with children in public schools, I am not willing to settle for more talk and studies. It’s a simple matter of math. I see an economic injustice that needs to be corrected. Our children have been denied equal protection under the law.
As a result I am committing every spare moment of my time to speak personally with other school boards, businesses, teachers, parents, taxpayers, associations and elected officials to support our effort to encourage the Florida Legislature to place the “DCD Elimination Amendment” on the ballot for Florida voters to decide. The legislature can also amend state law at its upcoming session in January to make this simple but equitable change.
Florida has failed us with this detrimental funding formula. The time for wringing our hands is over. The time for rolling over has passed. The time for action is now! I ask that you join with me to be an advocate for our students, our teachers and our school districts by standing united as one.
We demand that state lawmakers stop holding our children and their academic future hostage. We must hold our children harmless. Let the Florida voters decide. Let’s work together and ensure that the golden door of freedom, achievement and opportunity shine brightly for every student in every school district of Florida. #DCDtheft
Melody Johnson is the chairman of the Volusia County School Board.