The Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) is the primary mechanism for funding the operating costs of Florida school districts; this includes both charter schools and traditional public schools. The Legislature created the FEFP in 1973 and established the state policy on equalized funding to guarantee to each student in the Florida public education system the availability of programs and services appropriate to his or her educational needs that are substantially equal to those available to any similar student, notwithstanding geographic differences and varying local economic factors.
To equalize educational opportunities, the FEFP formula recognizes varying local property tax bases, education program costs, costs of living, and costs for equivalent educational programs due to sparsity and dispersion of the student population.
Although there are other sources of funding for K-12 education, the FEFP is the foundation for financing Florida's K-12 educational programs. A key feature of the FEFP is that it bases financial support for education upon the individual student participating in a particular educational program rather than upon the number of teachers or classrooms.
School districts receive their financial support from state, local, and federal sources.
State Support. Legislative appropriations provide the primary state funding support to school districts. The major portion of state support is distributed through the FEFP. State funds appropriated to finance the FEFP include the General Revenue Fund, Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, and the State School Trust Fund. Although the General Revenue Fund includes taxes from a number of sources, the predominant tax source is the 6% sales tax on goods and services. The Educational Enhancement Trust Fund includes the net proceeds of the Florida Lottery and the tax proceeds on slot machines in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Florida's constitution authorizes school districts to use certain revenues for capital outlay purposes, including construction of new facilities, remodeling, renovation, maintenance, repairs, and site improvements. Article XII, section 9(d), Constitution of the State of Florida, guarantees a stated amount for each district annually from proceeds of licensing motor vehicles, referred to as Capital Outlay and Debt Service or CO&DS funds. In addition, Article XII, section 9(a)(2), Constitution of the State of Florida, provides that school districts may share in the proceeds from gross receipts taxes, referred to as Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds, as provided by legislative appropriation.
Other funding sources are tax receipts from state forests and proceeds from mobile home licenses, which are deposited into the License Tax Collection Trust Fund and distributed to local governments.
Local Support. Local revenue for school support is derived almost entirely from property taxes levied by Florida's 67 counties, each of which constitutes a school district. Each school board must levy the millage set for its required local effort from property taxes. To set each district's share of the state total required local effort, the Florida Department of Revenue uses a statutory procedure to certify the property tax valuations of each district. The Commissioner of Education adjusts millage rates to assure required local effort does not exceed 90% of a district's total FEFP entitlement.
The list below is a schedule of millages and taxes that are available to school boards, as well as their authorized uses.
|Type of Millage or Tax||Statutory Authority||Established By||Uses|
|Required Local Effort||s. 1011.62(4), F.S.||Commissioner of Education||Operating costs|
|Prior Period Funding Adjustment||s. 1011.62(4)(e), F.S.||Commissioner of Education||Operating costs|
|Current Operating Discretionary - |
Maximum 0.748 Mills
|s. 1011.71(1), F.S.||School Board||Operating costs|
|Local Capital Improvement - |
Maximum 1.50 Mills
|s. 1011.71(2), F.S.||School Board||Capital improvements|
|Capital Improvement Discretionary - |
Maximum 0.25 Mills
|s. 1011.71(3), F.S.||School Board||Lease-purchase payments or to meet other critical fixed capital outlay needs in lieu of operating discretionary millage|
|Operating or Capital (Not to |
Exceed Two Years)
|s. 1011.73(1), F.S.||Voter Referendum||Not specified|
|Additional Millage (Not to |
Exceed Four Years)
|s. 1011.73(2), F.S.||Voter Referendum||Operating Costs|
|Debt Service||s. 200.001(3)(e), F.S.; Article VII, |
Section 12, Constitution of the
State of Florida
|Voter Referendum||Debt service|
|Sales Surtax||s. 212.055(6), F.S.||Voter Referendum||Fixed capital expenditures or fixed capital costs associated with the construction, reconstruction, or improvement of school facilities and campuses that have a useful life expectancy of five or more years.|
Source: 2021-2022 Funding for Florida School Districts, Florida Department of Education.
Federal Support. The Florida State Board of Education may approve plans for cooperating with the federal government in carrying out any phase of the education program and must provide for the proper administration of funds apportioned to the state from federal appropriations. The Commissioner of Education recommends policies for administering funds appropriated from federal sources to the state for any education purpose and provides for the execution of plans and policies.
School districts receive funds from the federal government directly and through the state as an administering agency. School districts may receive federal funds from various agencies such as the Department of Labor, Veterans Administration, Department of Interior, Department of Education, Department of Defense, and Department of Agriculture.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided significant financial support to address the impact COVID-19 has had on schools. The CARES Act includes $770.2 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) to be spent by school districts. In addition, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) program supported by the CARES Act included $64 million to ameliorate the academic achievement gap caused by COVID-19 and $30 million to help schools pay for increased cleaning and sanitation due to COVID-19.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to challenge the financial stability of schools throughout the country, additional federal laws were passed to provide assistance. On December 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act was signed into law, providing an additional $3.13 billion in ESSER II funds for Florida school districts. On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan was established, providing $7.04 billion for Florida schools to safely reopen and sustain safe operations.
FEFP funds are generated by multiplying the number of unweighted full-time equivalent (FTE) students in each of the funded educational programs by cost factors to obtain weighted FTE students. Weighted FTE students are then multiplied by a base student allocation, as determined by the Legislature, and by a district cost differential to determine the base funding from state and local FEFP funds. Program cost factors are determined by the Legislature and represent relative cost differences among the FEFP programs.
Allocation descriptions can be found in the Florida Department of Education's annual Funding for Florida School Districts publication.
FEFP Funding for Virtual Students and Other Allocations. Chapter 2022-154, Laws of Florida, makes changes to how virtual FTE students are funded through the FEFP and removes the Digital Classrooms categorial within the FEFP. The law requires all virtual FTE students to be funded in the FEFP using the same calculation methodology. The legislation also requires that all out-of-district virtual students be funded with state funds only.
In addition, the law eliminates the Digital Classroom Allocation, expands eligibility for the Sparsity Supplement, and does not re-enact the Funding Compression and Hold Harmless Allocation. The Digital Classroom Allocation provided assistance to school districts for integrating technology into teaching and learning. The Sparsity Supplement was designed to help smaller districts with the understanding that operating costs can be relatively higher for smaller districts. The law expands eligibility for the Sparsity Supplement from 24,000 or fewer FTE students in a district to 30,000 or fewer FTE students in a district. The Funding Compression and Hold Harmless Allocation gave funds to school districts if the district's prior year FTE students were less than the statewide average or District Cost Differential Allocation in the current year was less than the prior year.
Florida Empowerment Scholarships for Students with Disabilities. Chapter 2021-27, Laws of Florida, required Family Empowerment Scholarships to be funded in the FEFP with state funds only and repealed the Gardiner Scholarship and the McKay Scholarship programs for students with disabilities. Instead, students with disabilities are to receive scholarships through the Family Empowerment Scholarship. Parents of students who previously received a scholarship under the Gardiner Scholarship were able to request a scholarship under the Family Empowerment Scholarship beginning in the 2021-22 school year. Parents of students who previously received a scholarship under the McKay Scholarship will be able to receive the scholarship under the Family Empowerment Scholarship beginning in the 2022-23 school year.