Educate. Inspire.

Advocate for Florida's future.

START HERE to inform yourself about public schools in Florida. Learn what they teach, how they are funded and who is in charge.

Knowledge is power. Understanding the issues allows you to better advocate for the resources and policies that Florida’s children need to be successful.

Together, we can demand a better future for Florida.

girl writing in a notebook

Educate. Inspire. Advocate for Florida's future.

START HERE to inform yourself on how public schools work in Florida. Learn how they are governed, what they teach, and how they are funded. Knowledge is power. Understanding the issues allows you to better advocate for the resources and policies that Florida’s children need to be successful.

Florida Education 101

10 Things you should know

Florida has the 3rd largest public school system in the country, serving more than 2,791,687 students in the 2020-2021 school year.

As of 2020-2021 school year, 55.4% of Florida students were considered economically disadvantaged. (Florida Department of Education)

For the 2020-2021 school year, Florida’s students self-reported as 35% Hispanic, 36.3% White, 21.6% Black, 3.9% two or more races, 2.8% Asian, and .2% Pacific Islander.

Florida has about 339,352 full-time public school employees – including 202,505 full-time instructional staff and 123,095 support staff – making Florida’s public school system one of the largest employers in the state and, often, the largest employer in each county. District and school administrators make up about 3.9% of all public school employees.

There are 67 school districts in Florida which match, geographically, with Florida’s 67 counties. In comparison, in 2019-202, California had 1,037 and Texas had about 1,029 school districts.

For the 2020-2021 school year, 9.6% of Florida students were classified as English Language Learners and 14.9% as ESE (exceptional student education).

There are more than 4,300 public schools in Florida, including elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, ESE centers, alternative schools, vocational/technical, and adult centers.

Among the 50 states, Florida has the 2nd largest number of students assigned to each elementary school and exceeds the national average by nearly 200 students per school. Florida has the largest number of students assigned to each secondary school and exceeds the national average by 750 students per school.

The average cost (not including land purchase) to build a regular elementary school is about $16 million, a regular middle school costs about $27 million, and a regular high school costs about $55 million.

School boards and districts have a massive, direct effect on local economies throughout the state through employment and payroll. The school district is the largest employer in 46 counties and the second largest in 15 counties and is in the top ten employers all 67 counties.

How are Public Schools Funded in Florida?

According to Article IX, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution, the Florida Legislature is responsible for ensuring that adequate funding for education is provided and that it is properly allocated. School funding is made up of a combination of local, state and federal dollars. In 2019-20, Florida school districts received 39.15% of their financial support from state sources (primarily sales tax and corporate tax), 50.11% from local sources (property tax) and 10.73% from federal sources. Then, the money is dispersed according to a calculation base on the number of students enrolled and other components. View the current funding calculation.

The FEFP is a mathematical equation that combines state funds – primarily generated from sales tax revenue – and local funds – generated from property tax revenue. (Note- The FEFP is only part of the total funding for education. Funding for a variety of programs and services – such as school construction, workforce development and preschool programs – is provided in addition to the funds allocated through the FEFP.)

To provide equal educational opportunities for all children, each component of the FEFP equation adjusts funding to meet the particular needs and conditions of each of Florida’s 67 counties. During each legislative session, every component of the equation is subject to debate and adjustment by our legislators. Existing equation components may be amended, new components may be added and old or unpopular components may be deleted in response to the state’s political and economic climate and in the ongoing effort to meet the changing needs of Florida’s diverse population. Learn more about the components of the FEFP.

Where does Florida rank in teacher pay and funding?

Teacher pay in Florida averaged $49,102 for the 2019-2020 school year and ranks 49th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. It is only higher than Mississippi and South Dakota. Nationwide, the average public school teacher’s pay during the 2019-20 school year stood at $64,133.

Governor DeSantis set a goal of raising new teacher salaries to $47,500 and, in 2021, the Legislative approved $550-million to move districts to that goal when bargaining teacher contracts. He has not set a goal to increase salaries for experienced teachers and used federal COVID relief funds to give one-time $1,000 bonuses.

The average figure on per-student funding for K-12 schools is $7,811. Florida is ranked 43rd of the 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. in per pupil operating expenditures and is over $2,665 below the national average for per pupil expenditures.

Doesn’t the Lottery Pay for Schools?

In 2017-2018, the Lottery provided nearly $1,032,000,000 for K-12 public schools with $717 million allocated for operating purposes and $314 million allocated for capital purposes. The $717 million allocated for operating purposes would be sufficient to operate public schools for about 6, days. Since 1990, the K-12 public schools share of total Lottery appropriations has declined from 75% to 52%.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, 65% of lottery proceeds go to prizes. Then 26.9% are added to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund (taxes from slot machine revenue also are added to this fund). That leaves 5.6% for retailer commissions, 1.1% for administrative costs and 1.4% for ticket vendor fees.

Florida Bright Futures Scholarships for post-secondary education are completely funded by the Lottery. In the 2019-2020 school year, 28.5% of the money in the Lottery’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund went toward Bright Futures. School districts receive about 43% of the fund. That money is parceled out for things like class size reduction and workforce education. Read more

Why is there so much testing?

Florida lawmakers passed a sweeping law that eliminates the current Florida Standards Assessment. The measure is designed to replace the current standardized testing system with “progress monitoring” tests, which will require that students be administered exams at the beginning, middle and end of each school year.

Progress-monitoring tests in English-language arts will be administered to students in grades 3 through 10 three times a year. Math assessments for grades 3 through 8 will be given to students on the same schedule.

The first two progress-monitoring tests of the year will be used to “facilitate timely interventions and supports,” the bill said. Teachers will receive students’ results from the exams within one week after the tests, with parents receiving results within two weeks. the final exams’ results during the 2022-2023 school year will not be used to calculate school grades.

It remains to be seen if this bill will reduce testing, as parents have long pushed for, or increase it. It also did not change the current accountability system that ties the tests to punitive measures like mandatory student retentions, loss of diplomas, teacher evaluations, and school grades.

Who is in charge?

Each Florida school district has an elected school board that consists of 5 to 9 members. Florida school board members are “constitutional officers” because the office of a school board member is established in the state constitution (rather than in state law, as is the case in most other states). Article IX, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution provides that the school board shall operate, control, and supervise all free public schools within the school district.

Each school district has one superintendent. Of the 67 superintendents in Florida, 26 are appointed by their school board and 41 are elected by their community. All Florida school board members and superintendents must comply with constitutional “Sunshine Law” provisions, including those relating to public meetings and public records, and must undergo ethics training each year.

At the state level, the Governor appoints the Commissioner of Education and members of the Board of Education (as their 4 year terms expire). The commissioner is required to organize the Department of Education and oversee its staff, act as custodian of the state’s K-20 educational data warehouse, and assist the State Board of Education “in enforcing compliance with the mission and goals of the K-20 system.”

The State Board of Education is composed of seven members, including the Commissioner of Education. The purpose of the board is to set policies and regulations for the state’s public school system. They administer the capital outlay fund, adopt educational objectives for public education, adopt long-range plans and short-range programs for the development of the education system, exercise general supervision over the divisions of the Department of Education, adopt minimum and uniform standards of learning and performs other duties as stated in the Florida Statutes.

The Florida Legislature also passes laws every year that greatly impact Florida students, educators and public schools. In addition to passing the state budget, they pass legislation that regulate curriculum and instruction, programs, funding, governance, and other essential elements of the Florida public education system.

What is being taught in schools?

The curriculum and academic standards currently taught in Florida’s K12 public schools were established by Governor DeSantis after signing Executive Order 19-32 eliminating the previous standards in January 2019. According to a 2020 press release from the governor’s office, the Commissioner of Education said, ”…these new standards represent the highest quality knowledge-based standards in the nation. They not only incorporate civics throughout every grade, a first of their kind in the nation, ensuring that our students are well versed in the United States Constitution and the responsibilities of citizenship, they also provide educators with clear and concise standards.” The standards may be viewed here.

In Florida’s public schools, kids deserve age-appropriate and accurate lessons, helping them become the critical thinkers we need to make this a more just and prosperous country. Recently, certain politicians have been claiming that Florida schools are teaching controversial subjects and topics. These politicians are trying to make our kids’ classrooms into battlegrounds, creating fear and division so they can strip schools of the resources our kids deserve. Educate yourself and others on the facts and issues and then advocate to your elected officials. By joining together, we can reject this division and make schools a place where every child, regardless of background or race, can learn, grow, and thrive.

You Can Help Florida's Future

Become an advocate for Florida’s children and their education! Advocacy is the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. Advocates can change policies, pass laws, and give a voice to the voiceless.

  • You can only advocate FOR something.
  • You must only advocate to the person who has the power to give you what you want.
  • Find out who represents you.
  • Sign up for their newsletter and follow their social media.
  • Email them- introduce yourself and tell them your issues
  • Schedule a meeting with them. Tell your personal story and why the issues are important to you, stay on topic and remember to say thank you. (Plan for 10-15 minutes)
  • Stay in touch so they remember you and your issues. Bring a friend to the next meeting to develop more advocates like you.
  • Sign up for Alliance for Public Schools legislative updates to stay informed.
  • Use the Advocacy Dashboard to email and call decision makers. Be polite and tell them why the issue is important to you. Use your personal story. Ask your friends and family to do the same.
  • Use the Advocacy Dashboard to access their social media. Remind your elected officials that the issue is important to you and other constituents. Tag them in your posts and tweets.
  • Use your own social media to inform others about the importance of the issue and how they can help by contacting their own elected officials.
  • Stay informed with education news from around the state and the nation.
  • Learn about your candidates for school board, state house and senate, and governor.
  • Attend candidate forums or meet and greet events. Get to know them.
  • Discuss your issues with them. Listen to their positions on the issues you care about.
  • It’s never to early to start to advocate for the things you want for children and public education!

Register to vote at your current address or check your voting status. Then, be ready to vote for kids in the next election!

Picture of smiling school children
Speak up for Florida's Kids

Florida's Legislative Session

In Florida, the Florida Legislature has an outsized impact on children and public education. Every year, they pass new laws that affect everything from curriculum and instruction to how schools are funded.

  • Every citizen of Florida is represented by an elected Representative and Senator. Every year beginning in January during election years and March during non-election years, state representatives and senators meet in Tallahassee for the 60 day legislative session.
  • Their paramount duties according to the state constitution are to pass a balanced budget and fund education. They pass a lot of additional legislation that impacts schools in the process including graduation requirements, teacher evaluations, testing requirements, curriculum, and more.
  • The legislature consists of the House of Representatives led by the Speaker of the House and the Senate led by the Senate President.
  • Within each chamber (House and Senate), members are assigned to committees which cover different aspects of state governance like healthcare, transportation and education.
  • Bills are introduced by individual members or committees and are assigned to at least three committees.
  • The committees debate and amend the bills and vote to pass them to the next committee. If they don’t get enough votes, the bill dies in committee.
  • If a bill passes through all of its committees, it will be voted on by all of the members of the chamber.
  • For a bill to become a law, it must be introduced and pass each chamber. Then, it goes through a reconciliation process so that both bills match. The final version goes to the governor who can sign it into law, let it lapse into law (after 14 days) or veto it.
  • See this flow chart for how a bill becomes a law in the House and Senate.
  • Sign up for Alliance for Public Schools legislative updates to stay informed and to take action.
  • Read about proposed bills on our Advocacy Dashboard and Education News pages.
  • Identify bills that you support and oppose. Use the Senate and House calendars to find out when they will be heard in committee.
  • Contact committee members and advocate for your position. Be polite, tell them why this issue is personally important to you, and urge them to act.
  • Spread the word and tell others why the bill is important (good or bad) and what they can do to help.
  • Use social media to influence elected officials and to spread the word to others so they may advocate, too.
  • Visit your elected officials during their home office visits (usually on Fridays during session). Advocate for your issue with them. Plan on only 10 minutes. Be concise and polite. Bring a friend.
  • Visit representatives and senators in Tallahassee. Plan on a very brief visit so be concise and polite.