Q&A – Should Florida Taxpayers Get A Break Because Of Online Learning?

Today’s entry: Where is the money going that is collected for school taxes? Some is to pay teachers and administrators and other employees. As for the buses are not running so fuel is not needed and lights are off and AC can be at a minimum? Water usage is down too. Where is this money?

Bottom Line: This is a key and important conversation as all South Florida school districts ended the previous school year with online education and appear poised to at least start the upcoming year with online learning. There, without question, is far less expense associated with online education compared to classroom education as you’ve suggested. Busing, school security, electricity, water, plumbing, etc. There are many ways in which it’s significantly cheaper to provide online education. And thanks to Florida already having the largest online grade school education program in the country prior to the pandemic, the Florida Virtual School, we know exactly how much money is saved. 

According to data from the Florida Department of Education, as of 2019, the total per-pupil spending was $10,856, where $7,307 actually went into the act of educating children. The balance of the $3,500 plus was spent primarily on servicing debt, school construction, preschool operations. Without classroom education taking place, there’s an instant savings of approximately $2,000 per student due to savings on preschool and school construction/repairs. Already that’s a huge saving but there’s much more. The additional savings of not having to physically operate schools saves a lot of additional cash. Florida’s Virtual School per-pupil spending is $5,230. 

That’s $2,077 less per pupil than those educated in classrooms. This brings the total per-pupil savings for online education to approximately 38%, or $4,100. Now, here’s the question that begs to be answered. It’s the last you asked. Where is this money? That’s a good question. Clearly we’ve all still been taxed at the same rate. We’ve all paid this money and continue to pay this money. It’s safe to suggest money had to be used in the prior school year to purchase equipment for students and teachers and various efforts to make the transition. 

There likely were significant savings, but given the circumstances, I’m inclined to be understanding of what’s already happened. Going forward, into the upcoming school year, is a different story. Question for you. If you have children who ordinarily attend schools but are now being educated at home, do you have extra expenses and/or lost income associated with their homeschooling? Would you like a tax break of $450 monthly for as long as we don’t have classroom education as an option? For all of the rest of us. Are you happy paying thousands of extra dollars in taxes beyond what is necessary right now? Also, consider many of the special assessed taxes at the local level that might not be necessary at the moment either. 

South Florida has been the fourth most negatively impacted economy in the country. We have millions of South Floridians who are struggling right now and would certainly benefit from significant savings, averaging $450 per month per pupil, during online education. South Florida’s school districts do need to show us the money. This is a story I’ll stay on top of based on what the school districts decide to do. 

Submit your questions using one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

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