OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol
OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol

Education System

Public Schools (K-12 Education)

What is the purpose of the program?

As provided in Article IX, Section 1, Constitution of the State of Florida, adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education. 

How is Florida's public education system governed?

The state is responsible for establishing standards and regulations to ensure the efficient operation of all schools and adequate educational opportunities for all Florida children, including teacher certification and professional development.  The Florida Department of Education, under the direction of the State Board of Education, is responsible for monitoring school districts and collecting and reporting certain information on K-12 education.
Each of the state's 67 counties represents a single school district. Each local school district is governed by a school board in conjunction with a superintendent. A school principal is responsible for the day-to-day operations at individual schools. The following is a brief description of these roles and links to their legal source, outlining specific duties and responsibilities.
  • School Boards.  The school board in each school district is established in Article IX, Section 4, Constitution of the State of Florida.  Each school board establishes policies, and operates, controls, and supervises all of the public schools in the district. 
  • Superintendents.  District superintendents are either elected in a general election or appointed by the school board based on the decision of the local electorate (Article IX, Section 5, Constitution of the State of Florida).  More detailed information on superintendent responsibilities can be found in Ch. 1001 Part II B., Florida Statutes.
  • Principals.  Florida law gives school principals authority over certain school district personnel, including making recommendations to the superintendent regarding the hiring of instructional personnel assigned to the principal's school; overseeing the performance of all personnel employed by the district school board and assigned to the principal's school; and assisting teachers with the use of student assessment data, as measured by student learning gains, for self-evaluation.  More detailed information on principal responsibilities can be found in ss. 1001.54 and 1012.28, Florida Statutes.

How many school districts and public schools are in Florida?

Each of Florida's 67 counties constitutes a school district.  For the school year 2019-20, Florida had 3,485 traditional public schools(including K-12 general education, special education, alternative education, and university research schools) and 674 charter schools.

How many children attend Florida public schools?

In the fall of 2019, student membership, from pre-kindergarten through the twelfth grade, totaled 2,858,949 for Florida's 67 school and special districts.

What types of programs do public schools provide?

Florida public schools provide a wide range of educational programs from basic to specialized instruction to students in grades K-12, and operational programs that support student education. Additional information on these programs can be found in the profiles listed below.

How many people do Florida public schools employ?

Florida's public schools reported a total of 344,297 full-time employees in 2019-20. Instructional staff accounted for approximately 60% (204,989 employees), support staff comprised approximately 36% (125,552 employees), and administrators made up the remaining 4% (13,756 employees).

What alternatives are there to attending a public school?

In addition to traditional public school settings, parents may choose from a variety of school choice options for their children. These options include

How are public schools held accountable for student performance?

Public schools participate in state school improvement, assessment, and accountability initiatives to ensure that students meet established academic standards so they successfully progress from grade to grade, are successful in attaining higher education, and become productive members of society. Florida's statewide assessment system grades public schools A through F primarily based on student performance on the Florida Standards Assessments.  These assessments are state student achievement tests that specifically address a student's ability to perform on the Florida Standards benchmarks.

How are these activities funded?

The main sources of funding for public education include general revenue, local required effort funding, state trust funds, federal trust funds, lottery funds, and local discretionary funding. 
The majority of education funding is allocated to school districts through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) and categorical funding programs.  To provide equalization of educational opportunity, the FEFP formula recognizes variances in (1) local property tax base; (2) education program costs; (3) costs of living; and (4) costs for equivalent educational programs due to sparsity and dispersion of the student population.  The key feature of the FEFP is to base financial support for education upon the individual student enrolled in a particular program rather than the numbers of teachers or classrooms.
In addition to FEFP funds, the Legislature uses major categorical funding programs to provide school districts funds for specific purposes such as class size reduction.
Fiscal Year: 2020-21
Fund Dollars Positions


Adoption of New Student Performance Standards. The State Board of Education adopted the Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) standards, which encompass new English language arts (ELA) and Mathematics standards for grades K-12.  The Board adopted a three-year implementation timeline to include professional development for teachers to support implementation of the new standards, the adoption of instructional materials, curriculum implementation, and new statewide assessments aligned to the new standards. The B.E.S.T. standards will be fully implemented in Florida classrooms by the 2022-23 school year. 

COVID-19 School Closures. On March 9, 2020, Governor DeSantis issued an executive order that declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. As a result, school campuses were closed from March through the end of the school year. During that time, districts provided instruction through distance learning. Additionally, the Department of Education waived the statewide assessments program. As a result, all requirements for graduation and promotion and final course grades will be evaluated as though those assessments did not exist.  In addition, school grades will not be calculated for the 2019-20 school year, and schools in turnaround may continue their current status.   

Creation of the Teacher Salary Increase Allocation.  The 2020 Legislature passed Chapter 2020-94Laws of Florida, which creates a teacher salary increase allocation within the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP).  The allocation is intended to assist school districts and charter schools in their recruitment and retention of classroom teachers and other instructional personnel.  Each school district will receive the allocation based on the district's proportionate share of the base FEFP allocation, and each district must provide a calculated proportionate share to each charter school within the district.  District and charter school use of this allocation is restricted to

  • increasing the minimum base salary for full-time classroom teachers and certified prekindergarten teachers to at least $47,500, or to the maximum amount achievable based on the allocation and as specified in the General Appropriations Act;
  • as funding permits, providing salary increases for full-time classroom teachers and certified prekindergarten teachers who did not receive a salary increase, or who received an increase of less than 2%; and
  • providing salary increases for other full-time instructional personnel, such as school counselors and media specialists.

Prior to distributing allocation funds, each school district and each charter school must develop a salary distribution plan, which must be approved by the district school board or charter school governing body, respectively.  These salary distribution plans must be submitted to the Department of Education by October 1st of each fiscal year.

The law also repeals the Best and Brightest Teacher and Principal allocations, which previously served as recruitment and retention awards for qualified personnel. 

Additional Safety Measures for Student Athletes.  Chapter 2020-91, Laws of Florida, also known as the Zachary Martin Act, established several requirements to ensure the safety of student athletes.

  • Automated External Defibrillators. Any public school that is a member of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) must make its automated external defibrillator (AED) available on school grounds in a clearly marked, publicized location for each athletic contest, practice, workout, or conditioning session, including those outside of the school year.
  • Training for School Employees or Volunteers.  A school employee or volunteer with training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and AED use must be present at each athletic event during and outside of the school year.  
  • Heat Stress Monitoring, Hydration, and Cooling Zones.  The FHSAA must make training and resources available to each member school for the effective monitoring of heat stress, require each member school to monitor heat stress and modify athletic activities based on heat stress guidelines, establish hydration guidelines, establish requirements for cooling zones, including the availability of cold-water immersion tubs or equivalent means to rapidly cool internal body temperature, and require each school's emergency action plan to include a procedure for onsite cooling using cold-water immersion or equivalent means before transporting a student for external heat stroke. The bill specifies that each athletic coach and sponsor of extracurricular activities involving outdoor practices or events must annually complete training in external heat illness identification, prevention, and response.
  • Medical Evaluation.  All students participating in conditioning and activities that occur outside of the school year are required to pass a medical evaluation prior to participation in such activities each year.   

Where can I find related OPPAGA reports?

Prevention and Treatment of Exertional Heat Illness, October 23, 2019.
A complete list of related OPPAGA reports is available on our website.

Where can I get more information?

Other Reports
The Auditor General reports on district school board operations are available on its website.
Websites of Interest
Florida Association of District School Superintendents
Florida Association of School Administrators
Florida Department of Education, Data Publications and Reports
Florida Department of Education, K-12 Public Schools
Florida School Boards Association
U.S. Department of Education
Performance Information
Performance measures and standards for the department may be found in its Long Range Program Plan and in its Strategic Plan.
Performance measures and standards for the department may be found in its Long Range Program Plan.

What are the applicable statutes?

Article IX, Section 1, Constitution of the State of Florida; and Title XLVIII (K-20 Education Code), Florida Statutes.

Whom do I contact for help?

Chancellor, Division of Public Schools, 850-245-0509