A HISTORICAL REVIEW OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF FLORIDA'S SCHOOL
FINANCE PLAN AND THE FISCAL EQUALIZATION EFFECTS
OF THE FLORIDA EDUCATION FINANCE PROGRAM
LEE A. SHIVER
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL
FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Dr. Kern Alexander was chairman of the author's
doctoral committee. He has also been teacher, counselor,
mentor, supervisor, and friend. The author is indebted to
Dr. Alexander for providing the opportunity of a lifetime
and making it work.
The author thanks committee members Dr. Jim Longstreth
and Dr. Bob Soar for their assistance and guidance. Their
personal contributions to the author's education and pro-
fessional development during his graduate studies are
Without the assistance of the amazing Dr. John Nickens,
this dissertation would never have been completed. For his
help and commitment above and beyond his professorial duties,
the author is indebted.
The author appreciates the assistance of Dr. Jim Hale
who, in his own inimitable way, contributed much to making
this study less defective than it would otherwise have been.
The author is grateful for his advice and help throughout
the doctoral program.
Appreciation is extended to Dr. R. L. Johns for giving
generously of his time and knowledge to educate the author
outside the classroom. It was an honor and rare privilege
to work and become friends with one of the true giants in
Special thanks go to Al Steuart whose computer expertise
was exceeded only by his audacity in telling the author more
than the author needed or wanted to know.
The author also wishes to express his appreciation to
Nancy McDavid for her typing expertise. She is a rare
combination of skill, persistence, and pleasantness.
For their individual and collective help in completing
this study, the author is grateful to Link Jarrett of the
Florida Department of Education, Janet Guenthner, Aunt
Marjorie, Dr. Frances W. Terhune of the Bureau of Economic
and Business Research, Dr. Steve Olejnik, Alicia Schmitt,
Carolyn Nickens, Mom and Pop Flowers, Fletcher, and Charlie,
Linda, and Gail at the Red Lion. Special thanks go to Pat,
Julie, and Lisa for moral support and daughter, Brittany,
for providing the inspiration and motivation down the home
Finally, the author wishes to thank his wife; Linda,
for always being there. Her encouragement, faith, and
love helped overcome the most tenacious barriers to the
completion of this work and the author's formal Doctoral
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . ... ... iii
LIST OF TABLES. . . . . . . . . ... .viii
LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . . . .. . x
ABSTRACT. . . . . . . . . ... . . xi
I INTRODUCTION. . . . . . . . . 1
Statement of the Problem. . . . . 6
Procedures. . . . . . . . . 6
Delimitations . . . . . . .. 14
Limitations . . . . . . . .. 15
Justification of the Study. . . . .. 16
Definition of Terms . . . . . .. 18
Organization of the Study . . . .. 20
II. HISTORICAL REVIEW OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF
FLORIDA'S SCHOOL FINANCE PLAN . . . .. 21
Prior to Statehood. . . . . . .. 21
Statehood . . . . . . . .. 27
The School Law of 1849. . . . . .. 31
The School Law of 1853. . . . . .. 35
The War Years and Reconstruction. ... . 37
The Constitution of 1885. . . . .. 43
School Finance in the Early 1900's. ... . 49
Toward the Minimum Foundation Program . 58
The Minimum Foundation Program. . . .. 65
From Progress to Crisis (1949-67) ... . 70
The Modern Era. . . . . . . .. 74
The Florida Education Finance Program . 80
Evolution of the FEFP (1974-81) . . .. 84
TABLE OF CONTENTS (CONTINUED)
III RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN REVENUE MEASURES
AND SELECTED INDEPENDENT VARIABLES. . . .. 91
IV MEASURES OF DISTRIBUTIONAL EQUALITY . . .. 111
V ASSESSING DISTRIBUTIONAL PATTERNS OF PER
PUPIL REVENUES USING LORENZ CURVES AND
GINI COEFFICIENTS . . . . . . .. .130
VI SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS . . . . . .. .147
Summary . . . . . . . . .. 147
Conclusions . . . . . . . .. 151
A DESCRIPTION OF STATE DISTRIBUTION . . .. .155
B GINI COEFFICIENTS . . . . . . ... .170
BIBLIOGRAPHY. . . . . . . . . ... ... .171
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. . . . . . . . ... .175
LIST OF TABLES
1 PRODUCT-MOMENT AND MULTIPLE CORRELATIONS
BETWEEN SELECTED INDEPENDENT VARIABLES
AND TOTAL STATE REVENUE PER PUPIL. . . .. 98
2 PRODUCT-MOMENT AND MULTIPLE CORRELATIONS
BETWEEN SELECTED INDEPENDENT VARIABLES
AND TOTAL LOCAL REVENUE PER PUPIL. . . .. .102
3 PRODUCT-MOMENT AND MULTIPLE CORRELATIONS
BETWEEN SELECTED INDEPENDENT VARIABLES
AND TOTAL STATE AND LOCAL REVENUE PER PUPIL. 104
4 PRODUCT-MOMENT CORRELATIONS BETWEEN MEASURES
OF FISCAL CAPACITY AND FLORIDA'S DISTRICT
COST DIFFERENTIAL. . . . . . . ... 107
5 PRODUCT-MOMENT AND MULTIPLE CORRELATIONS
BETWEEN SELECTED INDEPENDENT VARIABLES
AND TOTAL FOUNDATION FUNDS PER PUPIL .. .. . .109
6 PERCENTILE DISTRIBUTIONS OF TOTAL STATE AND
LOCAL REVENUE PER PUPIL. . . . . . . 115
7 MEASURES OF THE VARIATION IN THE DISTRIBUTION
OF TOTAL STATE AND LOCAL REVENUE PER PUPIL . 118
8 PERCENTILE DISTRIBUTIONS OF TOTAL STATE
REVENUE PER PUPIL. . . . . . ....... 120
9 MEASURES OF THE VARIATION IN THE DISTRIBUTION
OF TOTAL STATE REVENUE PER PUPIL . .. ... .122
10 PERCENTILE DISTRIBUTIONS OF TOTAL LOCAL
REVENUE PER PUPIL .. . . . . . . .124
LIST OF TABLES (CONTINUED)
11 MEASURES OF THE VARIATION IN THE DISTRIBUTION
OF TOTAL LOCAL REVENUE PER PUPIL . . . .. .125
12 PERCENTILE DISTRIBUTIONS OF TOTAL FOUNDATION
FUNDS PER PUPIL. . . . . . . . .. 127
13 MEASURES OF THE VARIATION IN THE DISTRIBUTION
OF TOTAL FOUNDATION FUNDS PER PUPIL. . . .. .129
14 INEQUALITY TABLE . . . . . . ... 135
LIST OF FIGURES
1 A SAMPLE LORENZ CURVE. . . . . . .. 132
2 LORENZ CURVES DEPICTING THE 1970-71 DISTRIBU-
TIONS OF TOTAL FOUNDATION FUNDS, TOTAL STATE
REVENUE, TOTAL STATE AND LOCAL REVENUE, AND
TOTAL LOCAL REVENUE. . . . . . ... 136
3 LORENZ CURVES FOR THE DISTRIBUTION OF TOTAL
LOCAL REVENUE. . . . . . . . .. 139
4 LORENZ CURVES FOR THE DISTRIBUTION OF TOTAL
FOUNDATION FUNDS . . . . . . ... 140
5 LORENZ CURVES FOR THE DISTRIBUTION OF TOTAL
STATE AND LOCAL REVENUE. . . . . ... 142
6 LORENZ CURVES FOR THE DISTRIBUTION OF TOTAL
STATE REVENUE. . . . . . . . .. 143
7 A COMPARISON OF GINI COEFFICIENTS ACROSS THE
SELECTED YEARS OF STUDY. . . . . .. 144
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
A HISTORICAL REVIEW OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF FLORIDA'S SCHOOL
FINANCE PLAN AND THE FISCAL EQUALIZATION EFFECTS
OF THE FLORIDA EDUCATION FINANCE PROGRAM
Lee A. Shiver
Chairman: S. Kern Alexander
Major Department: Educational Administration & Supervision
In 1973 Florida adopted the Florida Education Finance
Program (FEFP), a new plan for financing the state's ele-
mentary and secondary.public schools. The FEFP was intended
to be less complex and more flexible than the Minimum
Foundation Program (MFP) it replaced, while achieving
greater equity in the educational opportunities available
to public school students in the state.
The central problem of the study was a statistical
analysis of the equalization of educational funding in
Florida from 1970-71 to 1980-81 to determine the state aid
impact on equalization based on fiscal trends before and
after the FEFP's enactment. A historical review of the
development of Florida's school finance plan was conducted
to determine the progress toward equalization which had
occurred since 1821.
The Gini coefficient and six other measures of dis-
persion or variability were applied to four measures of
per pupil revenues to summarize the FEFP's impact on dis-
tributional equality among the state's school districts.
Correlations focused on the relationship between each of
the revenue measures and the following independent variables:
other state revenue, district cost differential factor,
exceptional student programs, vocational-technical programs,
local tax rate, assessed valuation, and personal income.
Major findings were that (1) disparities in the dis-
tribution of revenues have continued to widen since 1970-71,
(2) a stronger relationship between personal income per pupil
- and total state and local revenue per pupil has developed
in the state, (3) although it fluctuated somewhat across
the selected years of study, the strength of the relation-
ship between assessed valuation of property per pupil and
total state and local revenue per pupil was virtually the
same in 1980-81 as it was in 1970-71, and (4) analysis
using the Gini coefficient indicated that there was less
equalization in 1980-81 than in any of the earlier years
There was no evidence to indicate that the FEFP has
achieved greater fiscal equalization in the financing of
Florida's public schools. Data suggested that the FEFP,
in fact, had resulted in some diminution of the equalization
effects among the school districts.
The equalization of educational opportunity has been
a primary objective of Floridds school finance plan for
many years. But as Morphet, Johns, and Reller have pointed
The equalization of educational opportunity
within a state is not a simple task. . The
measurement of educational need and the com-
putation of variations in the unit costs for
equivalent educational programs and services
is a problem which requires continuous study
in each state if educational opportunities
are really equalized.
In the wake of the Serrano and Rodriguez litigations
and acting on the recommendations of the governor-appointed
Citizens' Committee on Education, the 1974 Florida Legis-
lature adopted the Florida Education Finance Program
(FEFP), recommitting itself to the equalization of finan-
cial support within and among the state's 67 county-wide
school districts by guaranteeing
1. E. L. Morphet, R. L. Johns, & T. L. Reller, Edu-
cational Organization and Administration (Englewood
Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1982), p. 402.
. to each student in the Florida public
school system the availability of programs
and services appropriate to the educational
needs which are subsequently equal to those
available to any similar student notwith-
standing geographic differences and varying
local economic factors.2
Florida's Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), from which
the FEFP was adapted, was the subject of a comprehensive
study made by the National Educational Finance Project (NEFP)
for the Florida Department of Education just before the FEFP
was enacted. In its report, the NEFP gave Florida an esti-
mated rank of fifth or sixth in the nation on a scale de-
veloped to measure the extent to which a state equalizes
educational opportunity. Though the equalization level
was quite high, several major changes in Florida's school
finance plan were recommended by the NEFP which noted,
among other reasons, that Florida's MFP was needlessly
complicated, having produced inequities which had been
accumulating since its enactment in 1947.
Embracing one of the school finance reform movement's
most celebrated watchwords, "fiscal neutrality," the
2. Florida Statutes (Tallahassee, Fl.: State of
Florida), Section 236.012(1).
3. S. K. Alexander, R. L. Johns, & K. F. Jordan,
Financing the Public Schools of Florida (Gainesville, Fl.:
National Educational Finance Project, 1973), p. 44.
Citizens' Committee on Education maintained that Florida's
educational system "must insure that each child has an
opportunity to receive a good education regardless of his
family's income or the wealth of his school district."4
And though the Committee concluded that "substantially
equal educational advantages were available in all counties
of the state,"5 several revisions in Florida's MFP were
recommended, including a call for "a new method of finan-
cing education designed to achieve greater equity, sim-
plicity, and flexibility."6
Since the introduction of the FEFP, however, only a
handful of studies have provided information regarding the
extent to which Florida's nine-year-old reform measure has
indeed increased equalization of educational opportunity
in the state. No small contributor to the paucity of
evaluative studies has been the lack of consensus concern-
ing the definition and measurement of equalization
standards and local fiscal capacities.
4. The Governor's Citizens' Committee on Education,
Improving Education in Florida (Tallahassee, Fl.: State
of Florida, 1973), p. 2.
5. Florida Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Fi-
nancing Florida's Public Schools (Tallahassee,. Fl.: State.
of Florida, 1980), p. 5.
6. Governor's Citizens' Committee, p. 2.
Currently, measures of distributional equality and
fiscal neutrality are usually focused on the outcomes as-
sociated with current revenues per pupil, instructional
revenues per pupil, expenditures, and local property taxes
levied for education. While personal philosophies and view-
points concerning the concept of equity for pupils and tax-
payers are quite diverse, the aforementioned measures of
fiscal equalization programs remain the most meaningful for
assessing the consequences of reforms such as the FEFP.
In his analysis of the evolution of the equalization of
educational opportunity in Florida, Johns concluded that the
state's finance program was "almost fiscally neutral," with
Florida ranking "among the top six states in the nation in
the extent to which educational opportunity was financially
equalized."8 Equally noteworthy, however, was Florida's
three-year decline in the national rankings of adequacy in
school support which Johns attributed to the reluctance of
the 1976 Legislature to sufficiently increase state
7. T. R. Melcher, The Relationship Between Alternative
Local Fiscal Capacity Measures and Selected School Finance
Equity Standards (Doctoral Dissertation, University of
8. R. L. Johns, The Evolution of the Equalization of
Educational Opportunity in Florida 1926 to 1976 (Gainesville,
Fl.: Institute for Educational Finance, 1976), p. 77.
appropriations to provide for increases in pupil enrollment
and the cost of living.
Using data pertaining to the 1972-73 and 1975-76 school
years, Carroll reported that Florida's 1973 reform package
had actually increased disparities in revenues per pupil and
in instructional expenditures per pupil.10 Carroll found a
highly significant relationship between household income per
pupil and each of the revenue and expenditure variables he
studied, with cost adjustments in the FEFP strongly favoring
Florida's larger, more urban, higher income, and less
Given the State Board of Education's self-imposed, five-
year mandate to put Florida above the upper quartile of states
in terms of educational achievement, it is important that the
status of the FEFP's impact on equalization of educational
opportunity in the state be updated to provide the information
necessary for developing sound public school finance policy
in the future. Combined with a historical overview of the
10. S. J. Carroll, The Search for Equity in School
Finance: Results from Five States (Santa Monica, Ca.:
Rand Corporation, 1979).
development of state support for public schools in Florida,
such an analysis will enable scholars and governmental
decision-makers to reflect upon and evaluate the pertinent
background information, the trends established, and the
lessons learned in the state's quest for school finance
Statement of the Problem
The problem of this study was twofold. First, the his-
tory of state fiscal support for public schools in Florida
was documented, with an emphasis on the legislative acts and
political decisions which brought about the major changes in
Florida's school finance plan.
A statistical analysis of the equalization of educa-
tional funding in Florida from 1970-71 to 1980-81 was then
conducted to determine the state aid impact on equalization
in the state based on fiscal trends before and after the
FEFP's enactment in 1973. Measures of fiscal equality were
the focus of the analysis.
The study was conducted in three phases.
Phase I. The chronological development of Florida's
school finance plan was traced through a review of relevant
literature including official state and local agency reports
and records, journals, historical books, dissertations, news-
papers, and other related sources. Special attention was
given to significant school legislation which has affected
the financing of education in the state along with the con-
tributions of key organizations, agencies, officials, and
Phase II. Phase II began with the identification of
the statistical measures and independent and dependent vari-
ables which may be used to assess the progress of state
school aid toward greater equalization of educational oppor-
tunity. Based on the concept and measurement approaches
which have been used previously by school finance equity
researchers,12 and the accessible and centrally recorded
12. F. W. Harrison & E. P. McLoone, Profiles in
School Support: A Decennial Overview (Washington, D. C.:
U. S. Government Printing Office, 1965); President's Com-
mission on School Finance, Review of Existing State School
Finance Programs (Vol. 2) (Washington, D. C.: Author, 1972);
L. L. Brown, III, A. L. Ginsburg, J. N. Killalea, R. A.
Rosthan, & E. O. Tron, School Finance Reform in the Seven-
ties: Achievements and Failures (Washington, D. C.: U. S.
Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1977);R. Berne,
Equity and Public Education: Conceptual Issues of Measure-
ment (Working Paper No. 4) (New York: New York University,
1977); Melcher; and Carroll.
data necessary to conduct such analyses, the following four
measures were selected as the variables for analysis:
Total state revenue per pupil. This variable is the
sum of all state revenue per pupil and includes the
MFP and FEFP appropriations, categorical program
funding, special revenue sources, and special appropri-
Total local revenue per pupil. The second variable
of interest combines the revenue derived from the
required local effort with other local revenues.
Total state and local revenue per pupil. The third
dependent variable combines the total state revenue
per pupil and the total local revenue per pupil.
Total foundation funds per pupil. The total state
allotment formula generated amount plus the required
local effort equals the FEFP allocation to each dis-
trict. Data used for the MFP funds (prior to 1973)
were derived by combining total MFP revenues exclusive
of capital outlay, debt service, and transportation
with the district minimum required local effort.
Seven different measures of dispersion or variability
were selected to summarize the FEFP's impact on distribu-
tional equality among the state's school districts.
Percentiles. School districts were ranked according
to the variable of interest with values listed for the
100th (highest), 95th, 75th, 50th (median), 25th, 5th,
and 1st (lowest) percentiles.
Range. The range is the difference between the values
of a variable in the highest and lowest districts in
Restricted range. The restricted range is a measure
less sensitive to extreme values than the range. In
this study, it is the difference between the values
of the selected revenue measure at the 95th and the
Mean. The mean is the sum of the districts' values of
a variable divided by the number of districts.
Standard deviation. The standard deviation is the
square root of the mean of the squared differences
between the value of the variable in each district
and the mean.
Coefficient of variation. The coefficient of variation
is the standard deviation divided by the mean.
Gini coefficient. After districts were ranked in as-
cending order by the variable of interest, they were
plotted on a graph with the percentage of the total
pupil population measured along the horizontal axis
and the percentage of revenue received on the vertical
axis. A 45-degree diagonal bisects the graph and repre-
sents the locus of points where the two factors are
equal, or a state of total equality. iInequalities
are represented by the curve (Lorenz Curve) divergent
from the diagonal. The Gini coefficient is a statis-
tical summary of distributional equality and is equal
to the area between the Lorenz Curve and the 45-degree
diagonal divided by the area of the triangle below the
diagonal. The closer the Gini coefficient approaches
zero, the closer the distribution is to total equality.
Corresponding data appropriate to the aforementioned
variables and measures were then collected, computed, and
analyzed for every other school year beginning with 1970-71
through 1980-81. The primary data source was Profiles of
Florida School Districts, an annual report of the Commis-
sioner of Education. Other population data were obtained
from the Florida Statistical Abstract for the selected years
of study and the Bureau of Economic and Business Research
at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.
Phase III. Assuming some degree of variation among the
aforementioned measures of distributional equality, a sep-
arate analysis using Pearson product-moment correlations
focused on the relationship between each of the selected
per pupil revenue measures and a set of independent vari-
ables thought to have varying degrees of influence on per
pupil revenues. Variations in distributional equality thus
could be evaluated by assessing the changes in the strength
of relationship associated with each correlation.
Of.the seven items selected as the independent vari-
ables, five were directly related to the computation of the
total amounts of state funding for public education in Florida
and were thought possibly to be partly responsible for dis-
equalizing revenues, depending on their degree of influence.
While Carroll pointed out that the FEFP's.cost adjustment fac-
tor was directly responsible for disproportionate amounts of
state general aid going to higher-income districts,13 the
extent to which the other four elements .(i.e., local tax
rate, other state revenue, exceptional student programs,
and vocational-technical programs) affect the basic FEFP
formula was also of interest.
The remaining two variables, assessed valuation and
personal income, are standard measures often used to assess
the degree of fiscal neutrality inherent within a state
school finance plan.
The selected independent variables were measured in
terms of amount or unit per pupil and are as follows:
Other state revenue. A number of support programs
are intended to supplement the various programs in
the districts which are not included in the FEFP.
This measure is the difference between total state
revenue per pupil and foundation funds per pupil.
District cost differential factor. District cost dif-
ferential factors are incorporated into the FEFP
formula to adjust the districts' FEFP allocations for
the varying costs of providing similar educational
programs. This index was not measured per pupil.
Exceptional student programs. Under the FEFP, the
number of full time equivalent (FTE) students enrolled
in exceptional student programs in each district is
multiplied by program cost factors (weights) which
correspond to the relative cost differences of educat-
ing exceptional students in a number of different
categories. Under the MFP, funding for exceptional
student programs was based on classroom, or instruction,
units depending on the number of teachers assigned to
pupils in the program.
Vocational-Technical programs. Under the FEFP, the
number of FTE students enrolled in vocational-technical
programs (excluding adult job preparatory and adult
supplemental categories) in each district is multiplied
by program cost factors (weights) which correspond to
the relative cost differences of educating vocational
students in grades seven through twelve in several
different job preparatory programs. Like the excep-
tional student programs, the MFP funding for vocational-
technical programs was based on the number of instruc-
Local tax rate. The local tax rate is the local dis-
cretionary millage plus the millage needed to produce
the required local effort as specified by the legis-
lature for support of the schools' current operation.
This index was not measured per pupil.
Assessed valuation. The property tax base is the
assessed, nonexempt value of property against which
taxes are levied.
Income. A wealth measure, total personal income was
measured across Florida's school districts.
1. The historical account of the development of
Florida's school finance plan was delimited to a review
of the major changes in the structure of the state's public
school funding system since Florida was established as a
Territory in 1821.
2. The analysis of equalization of educational oppor-
tunity in the state was confined to four selected revenue
3. The study was restricted to quantitative measures
of distributional equality and fiscal neutrality as its
criteria of school finance equity.
4. Analysis of the state aid program's impact on
equalization of educational opportunity in the state was
confined to a study of every other school year from 1970-71
5. Given the general belief that variations in current
revenues are more meaningful than variations in current
expenditures,14 the study was confined to analyses of
measures of yearly revenues per pupil.
6. Because the FEFP necessitated a change in attend-
ance reporting procedures, the study was compelled to use
average daily membership (ADM) prior to 1973-74 and member-
ship based on State Department of Education surveys for
7. The income measures used in this study were for
the calendar year immediately preceding the selected school
Although the FEFP remains, basically, a foundation
program, the complexities inherent in its funding process
dictate that comparison of the substantive conclusions of
this study with similar analyses of other states' school
finance reform measures be made with caution. In addition,
this study's analysis of the equalization trends before
and after enactment of the FEFP may differ significantly in
a future assessment of the long-run equity effects of the
FEFP. The study does not represent a comprehensive appli-
cation of the myriad school finance equity standards and
measures to the FEFP and its effect on equalization, but,
instead, focuses on a more compendious design that provides
the same type of evaluative information in regard to dis-
tributional equality and fiscal neutrality.
Justification of the. Study
Without a fundamental understanding of the historical
development of Florida's school finance program, legislative
and executive decision-makers concerned with public school
funding will be hard pressed to fonrmJate sound policies
for the future. As Cubberley has written, "Standing as we
are today on the threshold of a new era, and with a strong
tendency manifest to look only to the future and to ignore
the past, the need for sound educational perspective on the
part of the leaders in both school and state is given new
Documentation of Florida's historical quest for equali-
zation of educational opportunity can provide school funding
policy-makers with an account of what has been accomplished
in the past, thus facilitating their understanding of the
origins and development of present-day problems and serving
as a guide for the future. In an effort to provide the
15. E. P. Cubberley, The History of Education (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1920), p. ix.
state legislature with a much needed, single source of infor-
mation on the state's public school funding policy, the
Florida Senate Committee on Ways and Means published Financ-
ing Florida's Schools,
. an attempt to consolidate the relevant
information into one reference document in
which the current status of public school fund-
ing policy and the decision-making process
is presented. There is a definite need for
such a document both for use within the Senate
Ways and Means Committee as new senators and
analysts are introduced to the funding process,
and for external use for anyone interested in
knowing how public schools are supported in
The review of the historical development of the state's
school finance plan contained within this study sought to
expand significantly on the seven-page history included in
the aforementioned document.
In a reassessment of the FEFP and its effectiveness in
providing greater equity in the distribution of funds to
Florida's school districts, the Select Joint Committee on
Public Schools of the Florida Legislature reported a mild
relationship among higher property valuations, higher tax
rates, and both higher FEFP revenues and K-12 expenditures.
16. Florida Senate Committee on Ways and Means,
The Committee attributed the variations in FEFP funds to
differences in assessed valuation, the availability of
"other" funds, and the district cost differential adjustment,
but cautioned that it was too soon to judge the constructive
impact of the FEFP legislation. It is to be noted that
the Committee's findings were primarily based on data from
a single school year, 1975-76.
Analysis of the FEFP's impact on equalization of educa-
tional opportunity in the state will not only allow legis-
lators and others interested in Florida's school finance
plan to assess the current status of school finance equity
in Florida, but, coupled with a review of the historical
development of the state's support for public schools, will
provide ever-needed, consequential information for the con-
tinued improvement of Florida's schools.
Definition of Terms
Average daily membership (ADM). Average daily member-
ship is the aggregate days membership of a school during a
specified period, divided by the number of days school is
in session during this period.
17. Select Joint Committee on Public Schools, Improving
Education in Florida: A Reassessment. A Summary (Talla-
hassee, Fl.: State of Florida, 1978), p. 4.
Distributional equality. Distributional equality refers
to the absence of disparities in the cost-adjusted distribu-
tion of per-pupil revenues.
Equalized educational opportunity. Equalized educa-
tional opportunity means that every individual should have
an equal chance to acquire the type and quality of education
that will meet his personal needs and the needs of his
Fiscal neutrality. When the quality of a child's edu-
cation is unrelated to the wealth of the district in which
the child lives, the school finance program is said to be
Foundation program. A foundation program is a school
finance system financed jointly by the state and local school
districts in proportion to their relative taxpaying ability.
Full time equivalent (FTE) student. Although FTE's
vary "according to the grade level and the educational pro-
gram in which a student is enrolled . basically an FTE
student is a student who is enrolled in one or a combination
of FEFP programs for not less than 25 hours per week in
grades four through twelve or not less than 20 hours per week
if enrolled in kindergarten through grade three."18
18. Florida Senate Committee on Ways and Means, p. 14.
Revenue. Revenue refers to the dollar amount of funds
received from specified sources (e.g., state, local).
Organization of the Study
The study is divided into six chapters. The first
chapter introduces the problem and the procedures to be
used. Chapter II is an overview of the historical develop-
ment of public school finance in Florida. In Chapter III
a correlational analysis is used to examine the relationship
between per pupil revenues and the independent variables of
interest for the selected school years. Measures of dis-
tributional equality are the focus of analysis in Chapters
IV and V,and in Chapter VI, conclusions drawn from the study
are presented, along with a summary of the research.
HISTORICAL REVIEW OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF
FLORIDA'S SCHOOL FINANCE PLAN
The purpose of this chapter is to present an historical
overview of the development of Florida's school finance plan
with an emphasis on the legislative acts and political deci-
sions which enhanced the degree of equalized educational
opportunity achieved by the state's public school system.
Important periods and major developments in the structure of
state support for public education are highlighted in a
chronological presentation, beginning with the establishment
of Florida as a territory of the United States in 1821.
Prior to Statehood
It is to be noted that prior to statehood, the thrust
of public education in Florida was in actuality education for
the poor. Although some children of the wealthier families
1. A. D. Pollock, The Evolution of the Organizational
Structure of Local Public Education in Florida 1945-1947
(Doctoral Dissertation, Florida State University, 1969),
attended the common schools, most of them were enrolled in
various private academies and institutes which were the
accepted form of secondary education until after 1860.3 The
proliferation of such academies between 1821 and 1845 was
aided by the use of state authorized lotteries which were a
prevalent means for raising money for the support of schools
at the time.
While it would not be until 1851 that Florida would
levy a tax for the support of the common schools, there were
those who believed that taxation for the support of schools
was inevitable if Florida were to ever establish an adequate
system of education. In a letter to the president of the
Board of Trustees of Seminary Lands, John Westcott of Madison
wrote in 1844,
That it should be a part of the duty of the
School Commissioner of each county to cause
a notice to be put up annually in each town-
ship calling voters together, and personally
inquire by vote taken the amount of tax if any
they are willing to raise, upon an equal
assessment of their property toward the sup-
port of a common school in their township.
That said township shall receive from the
2. T. E. Cochran, History of Public School Education in
Florida (Lancaster, Pa.: The New Era Printing Company,
1922), p. 12.
3. N. K. Pyburn, Documentary History of Education in
Florida 1822-1860 (Tallahassee, Fl.: Florida State Uni-
versity Press, 1951), p. 27.
4. Ibid., p. 14.
School funds and [sic] amount equal half, third,
quarter the amount they raise by tax.5
Despite the legislation aimed at establishing a system
of schools prior to statehood, provisions for financing the
common schools, and input from individual citizens concerned
with the development of public education in Florida, the
territory had little to show for its efforts in 1845. As
Grimm noted, there were very few common schools in Florida
at the time of statehood6 and the Constitutional Convention
had produced little agreement as to how a general statewide
system of education could best be developed.7 Nevertheless,
many people's interest and imagination had been stirred as
the groundwork for Florida's public school system began to
After Congress established Florida as a territory in
1821, the Northwest Ordinance of 1785 became the primary
instrument for facilitating the foundation of a permanent
fund for schools in the new territory. The Ordinance had
set aside the sixteenth section of land in each township
5. Ibid., p. 80.
6. R. E. Grimm, The Establishment of Bases for a
State System of Education in Florida with Emphasis upon.
the Contribution of Selected Personalities 1845-1869
(Doctoral Dissertation, Florida State University, 1970),
7. Ibid., pp. 38-39.
for educational purposes and, in a pioneering effort to form
a school fund for the Territory, Governor William P. Duval
recommended that the sections be sold and the money be rein-
vested with the United States Treasury until Congress placed
the fund under the control of Florida. Between 1823 and
1827, however, three United States statutes were passed
which, in effect, provided the governor and the Legislative
Council with the power to provide funding for public educa-
In the first of these acts, the Federal government
directed that the aforementioned sixteenth sections in all
territories be reserved for common schools. A year later,
in 1827, Congress passed an act which enabled the governor
and the Territorial Council to take possession of the re-
served lands and lease them from year to year, the rent
receipts to be appropriated to the use of schools and the
establishment of a seminary of learning at the discretion
of the governor and the Council. The following year, an
8. Florida Legislative Council Journal (1822), pp.
6-7, cited in Pollock, p. 7.
9. Public Statutes at Large of the United States of
America, Volume IV,'p. 179, cited in N. K. Pyburn, The
History of the Development of a Single System of Education
in Florida 1822-1903 (Tallahassee, Fl.: Florida State
University, 1954), p. 29.
10. Ibid., pp. 201-202.
act which concerned the disposition of school lands pro-
vided that the money arising from the common school lands was
to be applied to 'the education of the children in the town-
ship from which rent accrues,"ll but during the four years
the law was in force, only five sections of land were re-
ported as having been leased, netting only $101.50.12
Over the next 10 years, 1829-38, several laws were
enacted which authorized the collection of rental moneys by
various appointed and elected trustees, commissioners, and
treasurers to be applied to the construction and operation
of schools in their counties. Fines for trespassing on
school lands were paid directly to the school fund, but in
counties where there were no public schools, local judges
and commissioners could turn over the money to private
schools for tuition of those who could not afford to pay.3
Historians have expressed skepticism, however, regarding the
extent to which these acts were executed throughout the
11. Acts of the Legislative Council of the Territory
of Florida (1828), pp. 247-248, cited in Pyburn, The
History, p. 29.
12. Cochran, p. 6.
13. Acts of the Legislative Council of the Territory
of Florida (1834), pp. 37-38, cited in Pyburn, The
History, p. 34.
In 1839, the Legislative Council moved toward estab-
lishing a public school system by enacting a law which re-
quired elected trustees in each township to lease the
sixteenth-section land for the support of the common schools
in their township and,where no common schools existed, to
establish and maintain them.14 Additional legislation re-
quired that 2 percent of the Territorial tax and applicable
auction duties be paid to the county school funds throughout
Florida for the education of the children of the poor.15
The following year the Council explained that the rate
should have been set at 10 percent rather than 2 percent.6
Laws enacted in 1843 and 1844 again provided for the
leasing of school lands to generate funds for public educa-
tion, but the latter act omitted the provision concerning
the children of the poor and placed the responsibility for
managing the school lands back into the hands of an elected
treasurer and three trustees in each township.
14. Cochran, p. 8.
15. Acts of the Legislative Council of the Territory
of Florida (1839), pp. 15-16, cited in Cochran, p. 8.
16. Acts and Resolutions of the Legislative Council
of the Territory of Florida (1840), pp. 18-19, cited in
Pyburn, The History, p. 36.
17. Laws of Florida (1944), pp. 61-65, cited in
Pollock, p. 17.
In 1845, just prior to Florida being admitted to the
Union, an act was passed which authorized the governor to
obtain from the United States Treasury surplus money to which
Florida was entitled by a congressional act in 1836 for the
exclusive purposes of education.18 Another provision
ordered the proceeds of all escheated estates to be invested
and the income used for funding public education, thus pro-
viding a fourth source of income for sustaining the Terri-
tory's common schools in addition to rental fees, fines for
trespassing, and auction and tax revenues. Cochran reported,
however, that it was unlikely that Florida ever received any
of the revenue from the national treasury and that very few,
if any, of the townships benefited much from the leasing of
their sixteenth-section lands, although no records indi-
cating the amount of money used for the support of schools
for this time period appear to exist.
In 1845 the new state adopted its territorial Constitu-
tion of 1838 which contained the following provisions for
18. Laws of Florida (1845), p. 40, cited in Cochran,
19. Cochran, p. 9.
Section 1. The proceeds of all lands that have
been, or may hereafter be,.granted by the
United States for the use of schools and a
seminary or seminaries of learning shall be and
remain a perpetual fund, the interest of which,
together with all moneys derived from any other
source applicable to the same object, shall be
inviolably appropriated to the use of schools
and seminaries of learning, respectively, and
to no other purpose.
Section 2. The general assembly shall take such
measures as may be necessary to preserve from
waste or damage all lands so granted an 0ap-
propriated to the purpose of education.
As can readily be seen, the broad terms of these pro-
visions offered little, if any, substantive direction for
the development of a state system of schools or a school
finance plan. Although legislation aimed at establishing
and formalizing a state system of schools would continue to
be passed, it would be 23 years before Florida's constitu-
tion would set forth new provisions for school organization
and support. But even in its first year of statehood,
Florida was well on its way to establishing a bona fide
state educational system.
The establishment of the Office of Register of Public
Lands in 1845 reflected the importance of public lands in
20. Florida Constitution, 1838, Article X, Sections
1 and 2.
financing the state's schools.2 The first General Assembly
charged the Register of Public Lands with the supervision
of all Federal land grants, including school lands. Public
lands could now be sold rather than leased and all sales
were to be reported to the governor. Income from the land
sales was received by the State Treasurer who applied it to
the appropriate fund.22
Writing in 1846, a correspondent with The Floridian
identified only as "Franklin" maintained that the renting or
leasing of school lands over the past 18 years had been
unsuccessful in raising adequate funds for the support of
schools.23 Among his reasons for objecting to the leasing
of school lands, Franklin cited constant fluctuations in
rental fees, poor supervision and management, and the higher
rates of return to be gained from the sale of school lands
and the reinvestment in public stocks of the income there-
from. He pointed out that because the more valuable
sixteenth-section lands were usually surrounded by land-
owners who were least in need of public aid to educate their
21. Grimm, p. 47.
22. Laws of Florida (1945), Chapter 54, pp. 133-135.
23. Franklin, "Public Education--No. 5," The Floridian,
Tallahassee, October 17, 1846, p. 2.
children, the effect of the law as it stood then was "to
provide a school fund for the wealthy, and to withhold it
from the poor."24 Those who would benefit the most from
public aid generally occupied less fertile lands which ren-
dered their school section practically worthless.
Franklin's position mirrored the primary controversy
in the legislatures of 1847-48 and 1848-49:25 "That no
system of Public Education will be efficient, unless the
entire school fund is consolidated, and the whole directed
and managed by the State."26 He went on to suggest several
other means for increasing the state's common school fund.
Among these were the sale of seminary lands and a call for
the legislature. to give all escheated estates and the pro-
ceeds from "all fines and forfeitures imposed for the punish-
ment of crime" to the school fund. In addition to these
resources, Franklin urged that Congress allow the 500,000
acres of land which had been granted to the state for
25. Pyburn, The History, p. 49.
26. Franklin, p. 2.
internal improvements to be used instead for the purposes of
Franklin, in effect, was putting forth an early call for
equalization of educational opportunity throughout the state
and, according to Pyburn, consolidation of the school fund
was viewed by many as the only way for each child to receive
his share. Opponents argued that sixteenth sections were
intended'to be used for the public schools in their respec-
tive townships only and that only Congress cduld enable the
state to sell the lands and consolidate the fund. But
shortly thereafter, the state's first law providing for a
system of public instruction and the consolidation of school
land funds was enacted.
The School Law of 1849
The school law of 1849 made the Register of Public
Lands ex officio State Superintendent of Schools whose
duties would include an annual report to the Governor con-
taining a statement of the situation and expenditure of
school moneys and plans for the management and improvement
of the common school fund. The Register was also responsible
27. Franklin, "Public Education--No. 6," The Floridian,
Tallahassee, November 7, 1846, p. 2.
28. Pyburn, The History, p. 52.
for the annual apportionment of school moneys to be distrib-
uted among the counties. County superintendents were charged
with collecting the moneys apportioned and distributing them
among the school districts within their county. Annual re-
ports detailing school revenues and expenditures were to be
submitted to the state superintendent.by each county super-
Cochran outlined the principal fiscal duties of the
school district trustees as follows:
S. to make out the tax list for their
respective districts, and, when deemed neces-
sary, to call special meetings of the tax-
payers; to apportion among the different
schools the moneys received by district taxa-
tion; to purchase or lease sites for district
schoolhouses; to make out rate bills,
or tuition fees; to employ teachers and pay
them their wages; and to make an annual report
to the county school superintendent regarding
the amount of money received and
Article III, Section 11, specified that the tax was to
be levied "in proportion and according to the quantity and
value of the taxable property owned by each [taxable
inhabitant], ascertained, as far as possible, from the last
29. Laws of Florida (1849), Chapter 229, pp. 25-34,
cited in Pollock, p. 25.
30. Cochran, p. 17.
State assessment roll of the county." But because the
precedent-setting tax was optional and the new law was
primarily concerned with the distribution of "the interest
of the money arising from the sale of the sixteenth sections,
and of all other money which has been appropriated to the
support of common or public schools,"32 the impact on
Florida's school fund was negligible.
An accompanying act passed earlier the same year, how-
ever, was intended to shore up the common school fund33 by
providing for the addition of proceeds from Florida's 5 per-
cent share of the sale of United States public lands within
the state, all escheated estates which had reverted to the
state, all unclaimed property "found on the coast or shores
of the State, or brought into the State or its ports as
wreck or derelict of the seas,"34 and any grants or addi-
tional moneys from property intended for the support of
common schools throughout the state. The state treasurer
was responsible for keeping an accurate record of all
31. Laws of Florida (1849), Chapter 229, p. 30.
32. Ibid., p. 25.
33. Cochran, p. 18.
34. Laws of Florida (1949), Chapter 231, p. 35,
cited in Cochran, p. 18.
school fund transactions while the comptroller was directed
to invest the capital in state public stocks or United States
stocks, the accruing interest to be distributed proportion-
ately among the counties according to the number of white
children of specified ages attending school within them.35
In 1850 "An Act Providing New Modes of Investing the
School Fund ." enabled the comptroller to invest the
school fund in the stocks of other states or make loans to
cities or counties within Florida.36 Concerned with the
state's high illiteracy rate, Governor Thomas Brown sug-
gested to the legislature the same year that each county
should provide funding which should at least match their
pro rata share of school funds received from the state,37
thus planting the seed for required local effort.
The next year three pieces of legislation aimed at in-
creasing state support of the public schools were enacted.
The first empowered county commissioners throughout the
state to levy a tax on both real and personal property for
the support of common schools with the stipulation that the
36. Laws of Florida (1851), Chapter 338, pp. 101-102,
cited in Cochran, p. 18.
37. Grimm, p. 75.
amount levied not exceed four dollars annually for each
child within the county between the ages of five and eight-
een.38 The second act provided for any slave "taken up
under an order from the Circuit Court, in accordance with
the provisions of the act approved November 22, 1829,"3
to be considered part of the Common School Fund along with
any revenue derived from the sale of such slaves. The third
law provided for Florida's first equalization program of
state support by directing that in counties where interest
from the school fund did not provide at least two dollars
annually for the education of each child who had attended
school for at least three months within the preceding year,
the difference would be paid from the state treasury.40
The School Law of 1853
Although the state's struggling public school operation
was still plagued by lack of participation, organization,
and educational leadership within the counties, the legis-
lature continued its efforts to develop an effective system
38. Laws of Florida (1851), Chapter 343, p. 104, cited
in Pyburn, The History, p. 56.
39. Ibid., Chapter 341, p. 103.
40. Ibid., Chapter 339, p. 102, cited in Pyburn, The
History, p. 56.
of free public schools by enacting the school law of 1853.41
In addition to revising and expanding on the provisions of
the school law of 1849, the new act :contained a number of
improvements designed to correct the weaknesses of the previ-
ous legislation. Most notably, whereas the 1849 law re-
stricted the amount of funds a county could add to the amount
apportioned by the state, the new law provided for county
commissioners-to augment the state's contribution by as much
as they wished, thus paving the way for at least some coun-
ties to attempt to provide adequate funding for their public
schools.42 Progress was slow, however, and school funds
were often distributed among influential teachers of private
schools according to their financial needs.43
In 1852 only 11 counties were eligible for state school
funds44 and without the state's contribution, the children
41. Laws of Florida (1853), Chapter 510, pp. 88-92.
42. Grimm, p. 82.
43. Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public
Instruction of the State of Florida (1894) (Tallahassee:
John G. Collins, State Printer, 1895), p. 8; hereinafter
these reports will be cited with the name of the superin-
tendent in brackets following the biennium; e.g., Biennial
Report 1894 ISheats].
44. Grimm, p. 82.
most in need of public assistance were unable to attend
school. The school law of 1853 also abolished the rate
bill, a device used to supplement school funds by charging
a form of tuition to parents according to the number of
children they had attending school. Rather than take an-
oath swearing that they were too poor to pay the bill in
order to have their children educated at public expense,
many parents elected to keep their children at home. Thus,
the provision directing the state to apportion money to
counties according to the number of children residing therein
rather than according to the number of children attending
school the previous year enabled the underprivileged to take
advantage of the available educational resources provided
by the state. Although some form of public school operation
existed by law, there was virtually no public school system.45
The War Years and Reconstruction
From 1854 to 1860 the amount of state appropriation in-
creased steadily as did the number of children,4 but
reports submitted to Florida's governor by then State
45. Biennial Report 1894 [Sheats], p. 8.
46. Pyburn, The History, p. 63.
Superintendent David Walker indicated that the money derived
from the interest on the state school fund was not nearly
enough to provide adequate funding for the support of public
schools.47 Pyburn reported that during this period "the
average amount apportioned yearly for the education of each
child was the pitiful sum of thirty-one cents."48
By 1860 the reluctance of county commissioners to tax
property for the support of schools had begun to wane, but
the War Between the States effectively stymied what modest
headway Florida's public educational system had made. The
schools were closed and the common school funds were turned
over to the governor to aid in the war effort. With the
exception of an 1864 law enacted to provide for the educa-
tion of soldiers' children, the war years produced no sig-
nificant legislation concerned with the financing of the
state's public schools.
It is to be noted that prior to 1866, no schools
existed for the education of blacks and any discussion of
equalization of educational opportunity was concerned with
47. Grimm, pp. 79-80.
48. Pyburn, The History, p. 85.
49. Laws of Florida (1864), Chapter 1443, pp. 19-20,
cited in Grimm, p. 90.
wealth disparities among white children, In January of that
year, a system of schools for blacks was provided by a state
law which required a tax of one dollar to be levied "upon
all male persons of color between the ages of 21 and 55" and
the payment of a monthly tuition fee of fifty cents per
In accordance with the Congressional reconstruction act
of 1867, Florida ratified a new state constitution in
1868.5 Section I of the extensive article on education
stated, "It is the paramount duty of the State to make ample
provisions for the education of all children residing within
its borders,without distinction or preference." In addi-
tion to providing for free instruction in the .common schools,
the article provided for the common school fund to be de-
rived from the following sources:
The proceeds of all lands that have been or
may hereafter be granted to the State by the
United States for educational purposes; appro-
priations by the state; the proceeds of lands
or other property which may accrue to the
State by escheat or forfeiture; the proceeds
of all property granted to the State when the
purchase of such grant shall not be specified;
50. Laws of Florida (1866), Chapter 1, pp. 37-39,
cited in Cochran, pp. 29-30.
51. Cochran, pp. 34-35.
all moneys which may be paid as an exemption
from military duty; all fines collected under
the penal laws of this State; such portion of
the per capital tax as may be prescribed by law
for educational purposes; twenty-five per
centum of the sales of public lands which are
now or hereafter may be owned by the State.52
Most significantly, the 1868 constitution contained two
provisions for taxation which would prove to be a spring-
board for the future development of Florida's school finance
plan. A special tax of not less than one mill on the dollar
of all taxable property throughout the state was to be
levied and apportioned annually for the support and mainten-
ance of common schools, and for the first:time, each county
was required to raise annually by tax a sum matching at
least one half the amount distributed to each county from
the state common school fund. The former provision was to
become known as the "one mill Constitutional tax" and had
been suggested by the 1867 State Teachers' Convention.53
The Florida school law of 186954 provided for a uniform
system of public schools by implementing these progressive
features of the new constitution and placing the primary
52. Florida Constitution (1868), Article IX, Section 4.
53. Pyburn, The History, p. 89.
54. Laws of Florida (1869), Chapter 1686, pp. 7-19.
responsibility for the management of school funds in the
hands of the state-appointed county boards of public instruc-
tion. Among other duties, the board was responsible for
maintaining accurate financial records, managing county
property, and estimating the school budget for determining
the amount to be raised by taxation, an amount not to exceed,.
percent of the assessed value of its taxable property.
Money was to be disbursed to the schools based on the average
daily attendance of pupils ages 6 to 21.
Still,.the lack of adequate funds was the major obstacle
to be overcome by the state's common schools, many of which
were prevented from being opened. During this time the
schools relied heavily on the Peabody Fund, which donated
almost $69,000 to the state's schools between 1868 and 1884,
the Freedmen's Bureau, which provided funding for black
schools, gifts from Northern benevolent associations, and
private contributions. In 1868-69 county taxes accounted
for roughly only 14 percent of school expenditures,55 but
over the next 15 years of steady growth, the amount of money
spent for school purposes would triple and by 1883-84, county
taxes would total in excess of school expenditures.
55. Pyburn, The History, p. 97.
State Superintendent C. Thurston Chase decried the lack
of uniformity in the tax rate among the counties in 1870.
He reported that in two counties the county commissioners had
evidently refused to levy the school tax and that in some
"the board of instruction was remiss in its duty." The
lack of an organized board or county school superintendent
prevented other counties from raising any money at all for
Reconstruction took its toll on Florida and the state's
school system, but between 1870 and 1876 growing public
interest in the common schools was reflected by increased
millage rates in a number of counties. A law enacted in
1874 limited the millage rate to five mills57 which was less
than the rates in effect in five counties at the time.5 In
1879 the legislature lowered the maximum tax rate to two
and one half mills for county school purposes.59 Because a
majority of counties were levying a rate between three and
56. Biennial Report 1870 [Chase], pp. 59-60.
57. Laws of Florida (1874), Chapter 2030, pp. 101-102,
cited in Pyburn, The History, p. 100.
58. Cochran, p. 57.
59. Laws of Florida (1879), Chapter 3100, p. 39, cited
in Cochran, p. 57.
five mills at the time, the law resulted in a decrease in
school expenditures the following year.6 Due to public
demand, however, the law was again changed in 1881 when the
minimum rate was fixed at two and one half mills and the
maximum rate allowed was four mills.61
The Constitution of 1885
The constitution of 1885 contained important changes in
the provisions for the financial support of Florida's public
school system. Cochran summarized the principal changes as
The new constitution stated definitely what
funds should be set apart for a permanent
state school-fund; it provided for a definite
state tax [one mill]:, and for the distribution
of this tax, together with the interest of the
state school-fund, among the different counties
in proportion to the number of youth residing
therein between the ages of six and twenty-one
years; it fixed a minimum and maximum rate for
an annual school tax in each county at three
and five mills respectively; it provided that
the fines and the per capital tax collected
in each county, in addition to the county
school-tax and the county's proportion of the
interest of the state school-fund and of the
one-mill state-tax, should constitute a part
of the county school fund, to be expended by
60. Cochran, p. 57.
61. Laws of Florida (1881), Chapter 3222, pp. 45-46,
cited in Cochran, p. 57.
the county board of public instruction "solely
for the maintenance and support of public free
schools"; and if further.provided for a dis-
trict school-tax of not more than three mills
on the dollar, whenever a majority of the
qualified electors of any district who paid
a tax on real and personal property should
vote in favor of such a levy.62
In 1889 "An Act to Establish a Uniform System of Common
Schools and of County High Schools" implemented the educa-
tional provisions of the new constitution.63 It was the
duty of the county board of education to submit a budget for
the upcoming school year to the county tax assessor who
would fix the local millage rate within the range prescribed
by .the state constitution. Tax revenues were to be turned
over to the county treasurer who was now also treasurer of
the county school funds. An additional levy not to exceed
three mills could be applied to any special school district
upon application by the taxpayers residing therein and a
concurring decision by the county board of education.
Pollock pointed out that after the taxpayers of a school
district had voted for the additional tax, it was the county
assessor who then arbitrarily fixed the millage rate, thus
62. Cochran, p. 87.
63. Laws of Florida (1889), Chapter 3872, pp. 73-84.
extending "the long-time practice of withholding from the
school leaders the taxing decisions necessary for the opera-
tion of the schools."64
Nevertheless, the people of Florida continued to show
growing interest in the state's common schools as evidenced
by the annually increasing public school expenditures and
the number of counties willing to tax themselves at the
maximum rate allowed by law. By 1892, 16 counties were
levying the maximum five mills and although the state had
entered a new era of prosperity, the annual expenditure for
public schools was increasing much faster than Florida's
population and wealth.65
An important provision in an 1891 tax law allowed the
board of county commissioners to increase of lower the esti-
mated millage rate recommended by the county school board
within the prescribed rate limits.66 The legislation ham-
pered efforts by school officials to provide increased local
funding for schools until 1908 when the Florida Supreme
64. Pollock, p. 64.
65. Cochran, p. 90.
66. Laws of Florida (1891), Chapter 4012, pp. 30-32.
Court ruled that the county commissioners were not authorized
by statute to make such revision provided the millage was
within the prescribed constitutional limits and contained no
Although no special tax school districts existed three
years after they were provided for in the school law of
1889,68 an 1893 law allowed the elected school trustees of
the designated subdistricts to set the millage rate to be
levied in the district. State Superintendent William N.
Sheats complained that the existing statutes concerning
school subdistricts were "in too great a muddle to attempt
to amend" and should be repealed,70 but by 1919-20 the
special tax school tax districts numbered 883.71
An 1893 amendment to the constitution specified a
fourth source of income for the state school fund: "25 per
cent of the sales of public lands which are now or may
67. Pollock, p. 75.
68. Ibid., p. 86.
69. Laws of Florida (1893), Chapter 4193, pp. 131-132,
cited in Pollock, p. 69.
70. Biennial Report 1894 [Sheats], p. 120.
71. Pollock, p. 86.
hereafter be owned by the State."72 But Sheats reported no
apparent increase in the fund from the new revenue source
and urged the legislature to investigate the matter.73 An
accompanying amendment deprived the school fund of revenues
received from fines for penal offenses,74 an amount Sheats
suggested could be doubled and added back to the fund by the
dutiful enforcement of the collection of the poll-taxes.75
A third amendment changed the basis for apportionment of the
school fund by requiring state aid to be distributed "among
the several counties of the State in proportion to the aver-
age attendance upon schools in the said counties respec-
tively."76 The purpose of this latter amendment was to pro-
vide relief to those parts of the state having a large pro-
portion of the poor to educate.77 Cochran wrote that the
amendment "helped considerably in equalizing educational
72. Biennial Report 1894 [Sheats], pp. 128-29.
74. Ibid., pp. 129-30.
75. Ibid., p. 130.
76. Ibid., p. 131.
77. Biennial Report 1900 [Sheats], p. 25.
opportunities and in stimulating local effort to get the
children into school."78 Concomitantly, Sheats reported
early complaints from those counties which realized that
funds paid by them were being distributed to other counties
under the new method of apportionment.79
A fundamental problem that has plagued educational
financing since the first tax was levied on personal property
for the support of schools was addressed by Superintendent
John E. Hanna of Hamilton County at the State Convention of
County Superintendents in 1898. He cited the widespread
abuse of the county levy and blamed the tax assessors for
low property valuations which were depriving the schools of
much needed revenues. Taxpayers were required to state under
oath the cash value of their property and the assessor was
then to place a fair cash valuation upon the property,a duty
Hanna maintained was never lawfully executed.8
Special appropriations for public education were begun,
about this time as the different legislatures recognized the
need for additional state aid to support and maintain
78. Cochran, p. 200.
79. Biennial Report 1896 [Sheats], p. 54.
80. Biennial Report 1898 [Sheats], pp. 442-443.
various educational programs. Among the recipients of size-
able appropriations between 1897 and 1919 were teachers'
summer training schools and courses, eligible elementary
and high schools, rural school inspectors, teacher training
departments, and vocational education.81
School Finance in the Early 1900's
In the early 1900's few legal provisions were made for
improving Florida's school finance plan. Due to the state's
indebtedness to the United States, revenues were withheld
from the state school fund following the settlement of the
Indian War Claim Fund. In 1903 an act was passed which
sought to reimburse the school fund the amount due plus an
amount equal to the interest which would have accumulated.82
A 1904 amendment to the state constitution raised the
maximum millage rate to be assessed in each county for
school purposes to seven mills,83 but as previously stated,
many county commissioners throughout the state were reluc-
tant to assess the levy requested by the county boards of
81. Cochran, pp. 206-207.
82. Laws of Florida (1903), Chapter 5117, pp. 51-52.
83. Biennial Report 1906 [Holloway], pp. 8-9.
public instruction and refused to do so. In 1908 State
Superintendent William M. Holloway declared that if each
county would levy the maximum rate allowed by law and con-
vert all of its territory to special tax school districts
(which could each assess a maximum levy of three millsl,
then the state school fund would receive enough revenue, in-
cluding the stateone mill school tax, to adequately operate
the schools without the need for such large appropriations
from the legislature.8 However, because of the indebted-
ness being built up in many of the counties due to the land
boom and school construction, the state was not able to pro-
vide all the appropriations to which the public schools were
entitled at the time.85
Prior to 1912 the legislature had passed laws authoriz-
ing individual towns and cities to issue bonds for con-
structing public school buildings. In that year a constitu-
tional amendment authorized school districts to issue bonds
for building purposes and assess an additional levy of five
mills to float and retire the bonds.86 Within 18 months,
84. Biennial Report 1908 [Holloway], pp. 7-8.
85. Ibid., p. 13.
86. Biennial Report 1914 [Holloway], p. 4.
school districts had voted bonds totaling over one million
dollars,87 effectively perpetuating the inefficiency of
the small districts. Two and a half years later the amount
of bonded indebtedness would quadruple.8
A second amendment to the constitution in 1912 allowed
an additional-five mills school tax to be levied in those
special tax school districts where a majority of the voters
had opted to issue bonds for public school purposes within
their district.89 Within six years the maximum county
school tax would again be raised. A 1918 amendment fixed
the maximum levy at ten mills instead of seven and by the
next school year, 1919-20, 45 of 54 counties were levying
the maximum. 91 As the value of Florida's taxable property
increased at rapid rates, so did the public school income
vis-a-vis school expenditures.
The development of special tax school districts had
been a major factor in the progress of the state's public
88. Biennial Report 1916 [Sheats], p. 34, cited in
Cochran, p. 205.
89. Digest of the School Laws of the State of Florida
(1915), pp. 8-9, cited in Cochran, p. 198.
90. Laws Relating to Education Enacted by the Florida
Legislature of 1917 and 1919, p. 1, cited in Cochran, pp.
91. Cochran, p. 204.
school organization, but in the early 1920's their increasing
numbers threatened the existing school system by seeking to
gain full control of the local schools.92 Their increasing
importance was undermining the political control of the coun-
ties while inequalities resulting from the wide range of
millage rates levied within the districts throughout the
state began to grow. District taxation hurt rural schools
especially because of the wide differences in the amount and
value of taxable property when compared with that of the
town and city schools.
Pollock reported that the creation of the State Road
Department in 1915 had encouraged consolidation of schools
by providing for the systematic construction of paved roads
which made bus transportation a reality.93 In 1919 the
legislature outlined the procedures for consolidating special
tax school districts,94 but it was not until 1947 that
Florida's lawmakers enacted a provision which consolidated
all special tax school districts in each county.95
92. J. W. Seay, "Floirda," in Education in the States:
Historical Development and Outlook (Washington, D.C.: National
Education Association of the United States, 1969), p. 243.
93. Pollock, p. 79.
94. Laws of Florida (1919), Chapter 7913, pp. 280-282.
95. Laws of Florida (1947), Chapter 23726, pp. 185-234.
In addition to the five primary sources of revenue for
the public free schools in 1920--the interest on the state
school fund; the state, county, and district property
taxes; and the poll taxes--support came from a variety of
other sources including "dividends, interest on bank de-
posits and loans, the sale of bonds, collections for pay-
ment of bonds, fines, and forfeitures, and tuition on non-
resident pupils."96 County boards of education were also
allowed to borrow money when necessary to pay off the in-
debtedness contracted for school construction.97
Between 1893-94 and 1923-24 school funds derived from
state sources had declined from 23 percent to 5.5 percent
as local taxation became the primary source for school
revenue. In his biennial report to the governor, State
Superintendent W. S. Cawthon noted that the unequal distri-
bution of wealth among the counties and the even greater
inequities which existed among the school districts made
it impossible for the poorer counties and districts to
maintain their schools without more state aid.9
96. Cochran, pp. 248-249.
97. Ibid., p. 250.
98. Biennial Report 1924 [Cawthon], p. 10.
Cawthon argued that Florida's forefathers had regarded
public education as primarily the duty of the state and
pointed to early school legislation providing for the sales
of school lands to be paid into the state treasury as evi-
dence that the legislators of that session considered "the
school money derived from lands sales, in any township, as
belonging to the state at large and not as belonging to the
people of the township in which the land was situated."99
Another evidence of the realization of state
responsibility in those early days was the
passage of an Act approved January 10, 1849,
providing that county commissioners could not
supplement the amount of the state money ap-
portioned to the county by a levy of more than
double that amount. The state was thus auto-
matically required to pay at least one-third
of the cost of the public schools of a county.0
Cawthon recommended an appropriation by the legislature
of at least $200,000 per year over the next two years "for
equalizing educational opportunities as between the school
children of different counties."101 He also believed
99. Biennial Report 1926 [Cawthon], p. 17.
101. Ibid., p. 11.
apportionment on the basis of aggregate daily attendance
rather than average daily attendance would be a more
equitable way to distribute state school funds and should
be used in the future.1
The 1929 Legislature adopted this new method of appor-
tionment, but as Johns pointed out, it tended to disequalize,
rather than equalize financial support because aggregate
attendance favored the counties with the greatest wealth and
the longest school terms. The provision was later declared
unconstitutional,however, and apportionment based on average
daily attendance was soon reinstated.103
The 1927 Legislature responded to Cawthon's request for
additional state funding by increasing the state property
tax to one and one fourth mills and levying a gasoline tax
of one cent per gallon for education. One half of the newly
created Public Free School Fund was apportioned on the basis
of average daily attendance to those counties which levied
the constitutional ten mill county tax for schools. The
other half served as an equalization fund and was to be
102. Ibid., p. 22.
103. R. L. Johns, The Evolution of the Equalization of
Educational Opportunity in Florida 1926 to 1976 (Gainesville,
Fl.: Institute for Educational Finance, 1976), pp. 41-42.
conditionally apportioned to the counties as the difference
between the total cost of a 120-day educational program in
each .county and "the total amount of all state and county
funds available for the maintenance of the public free
schools of that county for that year."104 Unfortunately,
even with the added revenue sources, the fund was never able
to provide even a minimum 120-day term during the time the
statute was in effect.05
Florida's public schools were beset with a myriad of
financial problems in the late 1920's. The land boom, which
was primarily responsible for the state's most recent surge
of prosperity, sputtered to a halt almost overnight three
years prior to the Great Depression of 1929. In addition
'to the growing indebtedness incurred by the schools for
building purposes, many counties were forced to issue bonds
and secure loans for current operating expenses as well.
An educational survey team appointed by the governor in
1929 and headed by George D. Strayer of Teachers College,
104. Ibid., pp. 38-39.
105. Ibid., p. 39.
106. Ibid., pp. 34-35.
Columbia University, identified the school district system
as the main problem of Florida education and the primary
source of the inequalities which pervaded the state's public
schools.107 Summarizing the Commission's findings, Johns
reported wide differences among the counties in revenue
receipts and expenditures per pupil, in educational facili-
ties provided, in length of school term for whites and blacks,
and in teachers' salaries of females compared with males and
of blacks compared with whites. Again, the substantial
variations in assessed property valuations within the special
tax school districts,coupled with the Constitution's require-
ment that district taxes were to be expended for school pur-
poses within the district where assessed, were primarily
responsible for perpetuating the inequities of the existing
state school finance plan.108
According to Johns, the school legislation enacted in
1929 further exacerbated equalization of financial support
by abandoning the equalization fund and adopting the method
of apportionment recommended by Cawthon, i.e., aggregate
107. Pollock, p. 94.
108. Johns, Evolution, pp. 34-35.
days attendance. It would be another 18 years before the
major recommendations made by the Educational Survey Commis-
sion concerning changes in Florida's school finance law
would be enacted.10 Until then, the Depression years com-
pounded the ills of the state's school finance plan as
county and district tax revenues began to decline.
Toward the Minimum Foundation Program
By 1931-32 many counties were levying only three to five
mills for the support of schools while in some counties,
property assessments were lower than in previous years.
In other counties, property holders were not paying their
taxes as promptly as they had in the past. 1i Although the
1931 Legislature passed a law requiring a minimum school
term of eight months to be provided by the Board of Public
Instruction in each county, the lack of adequate tax revenues
produced an appropriation far short of the amount necessary
to fulfill the provisions of the act. School appropriations
109. Ibid., p. 41.
110. Ibid., p. 45.
111. Biennial Report 1932 [Cawthon], p. 39.
were usually prorated the most when state revenues fell
short of the amount needed to fulfill the state's obliga-
tions, but a constitutional amendment eliminated the practice
in 1938 by placing school appropriations on a parity with
all other state appropriations.1
A separate act introduced a new method of apportionment,
the instruction unit, which was based on a teacher-pupil
ratio and determined by average daily attendance. The new
method tended to equalize financial support because the
ratios were differentiated according to school size and level.
The act recognized the extra costs of education in less pop-
ulated, rural areas and allotted money for transportation
Additional legislation in 1931 was less supportive of
the schools, however. A law passed in extra session man-
dated that the board of county commissioners would determine
the millage necessary to be levied within the constitutional
limits, thus once again depriving those responsible for
education of important financial decision-making power.114
S112. Johns, Evolution, p. 50.
113. Ibid., pp. 44-47.
114. Pollock, p. 97.
Another act established the State Racing Commission and
equally divided tax revenues from race track betting among
the counties where county commissioners could opt to convert
the moneys received into the county school fund.115 This
option feature tended to disequalize financial support of
the schools. Six years later, the duty of levying the
local millage rate was returned to the school board which
was also charged with approving the superintendent's
A 1934 constitutional amendment provided tax exemp-
tions for homesteads with an assessed valuation of $5,000
or lower. Although local school revenues were consequently
lowered, the legislature checked the decline by doubling
the state appropriation between 1934-35 and 1935-36.118
A 1935 law appropriated $800 per instruction unit in an
effort to firmly establish and maintain the minimum free
school term of eight months legislated in 1931. As Johns
115. Laws of Florida (1931), Chapter 14832, pp. 679-
116. Johns, Evolution, p. 47.
117. Laws of Florida (1936), Chapter 18134, pp. 872-
892, cited in Pollock, p. 101.
118. Johns, Evolution, p. 48.
saw it, "This was an important step forward for it recog-
nized, for the first time, that the state appropriation
should be based on some measure of need rather than be
determined by the yield of certain specified taxes or by
being set at some arbitrary amount without reference to
In 1939 the comprehensive Florida School Code was
adopted "to provide for the reorganization, establishment,
operation, maintenance, and support of the State System of
Public Education."120 In Chapter X, "Finance and Taxation,"
Article I established a State Teachers Salary Fund which
replaced the Public Free School Fund. The purpose was to
assist the counties in providing the required eight-month
school term via full apportionments for instructional sala-
ries and transportation exclusively.121 To participate,
each county was required to submit annual reports to the
state superintendent, maintain a minimum school term of
eight months, provide written contracts for each member of
the instructional staff, adopt a salary schedule, and
120. Laws:of Florida (1939),Chapter 19355, pp. 730-972.
121. Johns, Evolution, p. 49.
observe all requirements relating to school budgets as dic-
tated by the school code.1
State Superintendent Colin English observed
The present State Teachers Salary Fund is to
some extent an equalizing fund because it sup-
plies aid for smaller schools in somewhat
greater proportion than for larger schools.
In other words, the attendance is so weighted
that a smaller number of pupils is needed to
provide an instruction unit in a small school
than in a large school. This is an advantage
to the smaller counties; yet it has the
handicap of tending to encourage the perpetu-
ation of schools which could otherwise be
Another provision required the school term in special
tax districts to be shortened proportionately whenever the
taxpayers voted a lower rate than the levy found necessary
by the county Board of Public Instruction to maintain the
minimum term.124 Still, the major thrust of the new school
code was the codification, reorganization and improvement
of laws relating to education in Florida and public school
coffers benefited little from the enactment.
122. Laws of Florida (1939), Chapter 19355, p. 897.
123. Biennial Report 1940 [English], pp. 260-262.
124. Laws of Florida (1939), Chapter 19355, pp. 935-
936, cited in Pollock, p. 104.
Tax legislation enacted in 1941 requiring county asses-
sors to assess all real and personal property at full cash
value125 resulted in a dramatic increase in county assessed
valuations. In 1939-40 nonexempt county assessed valuations
totaled just over $353 million.126 In 1941-42 assessments
totaled over $1.6 billion.1
In 20 years the state's share of the revenue receipts
for public schools had increased from 8.37 percent to 50.99
percent and the current expense per pupil in average daily
attendance had almost doubled.1 While total school
revenues increased dramatically during World War II (1939-
45), the legislatures of 1941 and 1943 produced few changes
in Florida's educational finance structure. An act passed
in 1941 was aimed at reducing the number of school districts
by half by requiring county superintendents "to prepare a
tentative plan for the organization of more adequate [larger]
125. Laws of Florida (1941), Chapter 20722, p. 1934.
126. Biennial Report 1940 [English], pp. 248-249.
127. Biennial Report 1942 [English], pp. 222-223.
128. Biennial Report 1940 [English], pp. 260-262.
districts."29 The same legislature further equalized
financial support and educational opportunity by allotting
additional instruction units for the transportation of
physically handicapped pupils.
The State Foundation Program Fund was created in 1945
to provide 'substantially equal educational advantages"
among the counties based on their educational needs and tax-
paying capacity. Fifty dollars from the $1,050 appropria-
tion for each instruction unit was placed in the fund to be
distributed to participating counties which were required to
maintain a nine-month school term, employ a supervisor of
instruction, and comply with the laws concerning teaching
loads and all other legal requirements.3 For the first
time, the legislature had addressed the problem of the edu-
cational inequalities associated with the extensive wealth
differences among the counties and districts of the state.
In just two years the state's commitment to the principle
of equalized educational opportunity would evolve into
129. Laws of Florida (1941), Chapter 20691, pp. 1797-
130. Johns, Evolution, p. 50.
131. Laws of Florida (1945), Chapter 22518, pp. 17-19.
the most celebrated piece of school finance legislation in
the 20th century, the Minimum Foundation Program Law.
The Minimum Foundation Program
The Minimum Foundation Programl32 was the result of a
long and arduous campaign by state and national educational
leaders who had advocated consolidation of schools and in-
creased state aid for many years. Although the recommenda-
tions of the governor-appointed Florida Citizens Committee
on Education were enacted almost in toto, Pollock reported
several other factors that contributed to the passage of the
Since the turn of the century, state superintendents
and numerous other educational leaders had followed the
example of Sheats' fervent advocacy of equal educational
opportunity and increased state aid. Consequently, by 1947
the legislature was well aware of the finance reforms which
the state school system so desperately needed. It was also
apparent that to avert chaos, the financial crisis which had
developed in the system had to be checked. Inadequate school
buildings and low teacher salaries were but two of the
132. Laws of Florida (1947), Chapter 23725, pp. 185-234.
multifarious problems which threatened the state's schools.
Florida, too, was enjoying the prosperity of post-war
America and was in a position to provide the support neces-
sary to maintain the Foundation Program. The fact that the
Citizens' Committee represented hundreds of outstanding citi-
zens and educational leaders throughout the state who were
able to combine their voices to generate the political pres-
sure necessary to insure legislative approval was the key
element in establishing a new program.
The heart of the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) was a
budget system which varied allocation of basic instruction
units to counties according to school population, teachers'
professional training levels, and the extent to which educa-
tional services were provided.134 The developers of the MFP,
R. L. Johns of the University of Florida and Edgar Morphet
of the Florida State Department of Education, employed a
method of determining the cost of the Foundation Program
which continued to use instruction units but effectively
133. Pollock, p. 119.
134. R. L. Johns, "State Financing of Elementary.and
Secondary Education," in Education in the States: Nationwide
Development Since 1900 (Washington, D. C.: National Edu-
cation Association of the United States, 1969); p. 196.
reduced the pupil-teacher ratios in selected.programs. The
1. Calculating the cost of instruction by
multiplying the number of instruction units
by the appropriate amount provided in a
salary allotment scale.
2. Calculating the amount allotted for trans-
portation [$300 per instruction unit] by a method
developed by Johns in his doctoral study.
3. Calculating the amount allotted for other
current expenses by multiplying the instruction
units by a flat amount per unit determined by
the average costs.
4. Calculating the amount allocated for capital
outlay and debt service [$300 per instruction
unit] by multiplying the instruction units by a
flat amount determined by the average deprecia-
tion costs of the school plant.135
In addition to the 10 requirements for participation in
the Foundation Program,136 local systems could provide other
instructional services and receive additional state finan-
cial support without increasing their local effort. Local
systems were required to maintain a minimum school term of
180 teaching days to participate. Instruction units
were allocated for regular classroom teachers, exceptional
136. Laws of Florida (1947), Chapter 23725, pp. 202-
137. Ibid., p. 203, cited in Johns, Evolution, p. 55.
education, adult education, vocational education, summer
programs, supervision and administration services, and cer-
tain other special instructional services such as art, physi-
cal education, music, and guidance. By increasing its
required local effort, a county could also include kinder-
garten and junior colleges in the Foundation Program.1
The required local effort was derived by multiplying
the county's percentage portion of the total taxpaying abil-
ity of the state by 95 percent of the yield of a six mill
tax levied on the total nonexempt assessed valuation of the
state. To combat inequities in locally assessed valuations
of property, an economic index of relative taxpaying ability
was used to determine each county's share of the state's
calculated financial ability.140 The required local effort
was subtracted from the cost of a county's Foundation Pro-
gram to determine the amount of state aid which it would
138. Ibid., pp. 206-210, cited in Johns, Evolution,
139. Ibid., p. 230, cited in Johns, Evolution, p. 57.
140. Ibid., pp. 216-217, cited in Johns, Evolution,
141. Ibid., pp. 217-218, cited in Johns, Evolution,
Seay described another important change in Florida's
school finance plan thusly:
Governor Millard Caldwell insisted that if
money was to be collected from where it could
be found in the state and spent on children
wherever they were to be found, the same
philosophy had to be followed at the county
level. At this time the state was operating
under a county system. The Governor insisted
that the Legislature eliminate all district
lines, which it then did. This meant that all
local money raised at the county level could
be expended for all the children in the county
irrespective of the former school districts.
The entire county's wealth could be placed
behind all of its children.142
Johns noted an equally important provision in the MFP
law required that the state appropriations for the Founda-
tion Program fund be paid with general fund revenues rather
than earmarked taxes. Instead of being determined by the
yield of earmarked taxes, educational appropriations were
now based on need as calculated by the MFP formula.143
The impact of the MFP on the financial condition of
Florida's public schools was immediate. In 1946-47 revenue
receipts from combined state, county, and district sources
totaled just over $51 million. For the 1947-48 school year,
the total was approximately $73 million, representing a
142. Seay, p. 244.
143. Johns, Evolution, p. 57.
one-year increase of almost $22 million.144 The MFP also
succeeded in making the state responsible for most of the
financial burden of public education. In 1946-47 state
sources accounted for 37 percent of all school funds. In
1947-48 the state's share was over 52 percent.145 For the
same period, current expenditures per pupil in average daily
attendance increased 35 percent.146 The establishment of
the MFP proved to be a milestone unparalleled in the evolu-
tion of Florida's school finance plan.
From Progress to Crisis (1949-67)
By 1949 the MFP and other state appropriations had used
up the surplus revenues which had accumulated in the state
treasury following the war and the schools were suddenly
confronted with a foundation program that was unable to meet
all of its financial obligations.1 Only after a special
session of the legislature enacted a series of limited sales
tax laws later that year48 was the state able to provide
144. Biennial Report 1948 [English], pp. 48-49.
145. Ibid., p. 276.
146. Ibid., p. 278.
147. Seay, p. 245.
148. Laws of Florida (Extraordinary Session)(1949),
Chapter 26319, pp. 9-49; Chapter 26320, pp. 50-71; Chapter
26321, pp. 71-76; Chapter 26324, pp. 78-80.
the minimum support program for public schools which had
been guaranteed in 1947.
Educational appropriations continued to increase during
the 1950's as legislators sought to improve the MFP and
strengthen support for the state's educational program in
almost every session.149 A 1952 constitutional amendment150
guaranteed the allocation of the state's automobile license
revenues to pay the Foundation Program's appropriation for
capital outlay beginning in 1953. The State Board of Educa-
tion was also authorized to issue bonds for school building
purposes in anticipation of the allotment to be generated
by the tax. The following year both the MFP allotment for
teachers' salariesl1 and the allotment for transportation152
were increased. The 1953 Legislature also revised the index
of taxpaying ability in an effort to upgrade the MFP's
formula for determining required local effort.153 In 1955
149. Seay, p. 245.
150. Laws of Florida (1951), Senate Joint Resolution
No. 96, pp. 1889-1895, cited in Johns, p. 59.
151. Laws of Florida (1953), Chapter 28139, p. 454.
152. Ibid., Chapter 28178, pp. 671-672.
153. Ibid., Chapter 28182, pp. 680-681, cited in
Johns, Evolution, p. .60.
the legislature again increased the allotment for instruc-
tional salaries, along with the amount for current ex-
Two separate laws enacted in 1957 provided for addi-
tional increases in teacher salary allocations155 and capital
outlay.156 The latter enactment annually gave each county
$200 for each additional pupil in average daily attendance
beginning with the 1955-56 school year, provided the county
matched the total allotment received and placed the money
in a school construction fund separate from the county
school fund. Another law appropriated the first $18 million
collected from the newly revised sales tax to a special
"County School Sales Tax Fund" which was to be disbursed
monthly in proportion to the number of instruction units
in each county.
154. Laws of Florida (1955), Chapter 29698, pp. 186-
187, cited in Johns, Evolution, p. 60.
155. Laws of Florida (1957), Chapter 57-297, pp. 578-
582, cited in Johns, Evolution, p. 60.
156. Ibid., Chapter 57-334, pp. 724-727, cited in
Johns, Evolution, p. 61.
157. Ibid., Chapter 57-398, pp. 918-919, cited in
Johns, Evolution, p. 61.
Over the next nine years, however, the legislature
would become lax in providing financial support for the
schools. Increased attendance would generate additional
revenues under the MFP formula, but without adjustments for
the rising costs of education, Florida's schools would soon
face yet another crisis situation. In 1961 the county sales
tax fund was reenacted, resulting in a revised appropriation
of $550 per instruction unit to each county, and teachers'
salaries were increased in 1961159 and 1963, 160 but the
effect of these appropriations on the impending financial
crunch was negligible.
A law requiring all property to be assessed at 100 per-
cent of "just value" was upheld in a 1965 Florida Supreme
Court ruling which accounted for increased valuations in
many counties shortly thereafter.1 Reacting to the possi-
bility of large increases in local property taxes, the legis-
lature passed a law effective in 1966 which required local
158. Laws of Florida (1961), Chapter 61-255, pp. 458-
459, cited in Johns, p. 62.
159. Johns, Evolution, p. 62.
160. Laws of Florida (1963), Chapter 63-300, p. 781.
161. Johns, Evolution, pp. 63-64.
taxing authorities to reduce the millage to be levied from.
what it was the preceding year in proportion to the increase
in the general level of assessed valuations for the current
year. Consequently, assessments in many counties remained
well below the "just value" standard and even though market
values were increasing, some counties were still unable to
generate the necessary revenue.163 The Southern Associa-
tion's disaccreditation of all of Jacksonville's high
schools164 was but one example of the progressive deteriora-
tion of the state's public schools.
The Modern Era
Since 1959, school finance reform in Florida has been
the product of a coalition of influential decision-makers
at the state level as well as the larger teacher organiza-
tions from Dade, Pinellas, and Hillsborough Counties and
the Association of District School Superintendents. Certain
legislators (especially in the House of Representatives),
the governor, the commissioner of education, and the State
162. Laws of Florida (1965), Chapter 65-258, pp. 948-
163. F. DePalma, State Policy Making for the Public
Schools of Florida, Ohio State University, The Educational
Governance Project, 1974, p. 56.
164. Ibid., pp. 56-57.
Department of Education (DOE) have all been prime movers of
significant changes in school finance policy.165 The extent
of their influence on Florida's school finance structure
would never be more apparent than during the political up-
heaval in education in 1967 and 1968.
DePalma described the situation thusly.
Several forces were operating in 1967 concerning
school finance. First, many county districts
were unable to.adequately fund their schools.
Second, taxpayers were revolting because of
increasingly high property taxes. Third,
educators, especially teachers through the
Florida Education Association [FEA], were more
vocal than ever about their position that educa-
tion was poorly funded. Fourth, legislators
were aware that many local county districts
were in financial trouble.166
The FEA had provided a strong voice in educational
leadership since 1929 by working closely with the state
school superintendents in their efforts to bring about the
equalization of fiscal resources and increased state aid for
the support of schools. Other groups such as the School
Boards Association, the State Congress of Parents and
Teachers, and the Continuing Education Council had long
165. Ibid., p. 55.
166. Ibid., p. 58.
provided invaluable support in the push to develop a sound
finance policy for Florida's schools.167 But in 1967, the
FEA stood to lose nearly all of the political influence it
had acquired over the years.
Although the legislature included $77 million for
teacher salaries in their appropriation for education over
the next two years, the FEA remained dissatisfied and re-
affirmed their strike threat. Using his veto power, Governor
Kirk had reduced part of the appropriation because he wanted
to avoid new taxes, but as the FEA's threat of a state-wide
teacher walkout gained momentum, he was forced to call a
special session of the legislature in January of 1968 to
address the school finance situation.168
After much controversy, the legislature approved an
increase of $242 million over the previous year's appropri-
ation. The required local effort for counties to participate
in the MFP was reduced to three mills in light of rapidly
increasing property assessments, and a 10 mill cap was put
on local property tax rates to increase the state's share
of the financial burden and to appease disgruntled taxpayers
167. Johns, Evolution, p. 75.
168. DePalma, p. 59.
in "property rich, pupil poor" counties. Aorie percent in-
crease in the state sales tax would more than canpensate for
the reduction in local funds the next year and would provide
the financial base needed for the increased educational
Separate legislation allowed district voters to exceed
the cap "to replace any decrease in funds from Public Law
874 from the previous year"170 and to provide for "district
building and bus, required debt service, and the millage
required for junior college minimum effort." The FEA,
however, was unsatisfied and struck on the last day of the
special session. The ill-advised decision would cost the
FEA "membership, prestige, close ties with DOE and other
educational interest groups, and political influence in the
As a result of the special session legislation increas-
ing both the equalization and the adequacy of school support,
legislators showed a greater commitment to equalization and
169. Johns, Evolution, pp. 64-65.
170. Florida Statutes (1969):, Chapter 236.251(3),
171. Ibid., Chapter 236.251(1).
172. DePalma, p. 62.
became more involved in school finance matters. They be-
came especially attuned to the local districts' demands for
more state funding as evidencedby the 1970 School Equaliza-
The 1970 educational finance legislation was originally
vetoed by Governor Kirk, but the legislature overrode the
veto in a demonstration of the lawmakers' strong desire to
achieve equity in school finance.174 In moving toward pro-
viding increased state support to education in a less pres-
sured political atmosphere, the legislature passed a bill
which resulted in several changes in Florida's school finance
plan. The bill featured the following provisions: 1) Over
the next four years, the allotment per instructional unit
would be increased by $1100 each year; 2) The index of tax-
paying ability for determining required local effort was
discontinued in favor of tax ratio studies based on property
assessments at 100 percent of market value. The ratio of
locally assessed valuations to 100 percent valuation would
be computed to determine the local effort required to par-
ticipate in the MFP; 3) The equalized millage rate would be
173. Ibid., p. 61.
174. Ibid., p. 64.
raised by one mill a year for four consecutive years. By
1973-74 the required local effort would be 97 percent of
seven mills levied on the adjusted 100 percent tax roll;
4) Districts that had a 100 percent valuation per pupil in
average daily attendance which was less than the state aver-
age were allocated additional state funds in an effort to
equalize county ad valorem taxes up to the state average
yield; 5) To compensate for cost variations, a cost of living
adjustment was to be included in the MFP formula in 1974-75.175
The 1970 Legislature helped close the gap in per pupil
expenditures between the wealthy and poor districts by in-
creasing aid to the poorer districts. Unlike the politi-
cal upheaval of 1967-68, however, school finance reform in
1970 was a product of the concerns of a small group of legis-
lators and the technical expertise of the DOE legislative
staff. By 1973 the complexities of Florida's school
finance structure would require the assistance of selected
school finance experts whose impact would have a direct
bearing on most of the fiscal changes incorporated in the
Florida Education Finance Act of 1973.
175. Laws of Florida (1970), Chapter 70-94, pp. 214-
226, cited in Johns, Evolution, pp. 65-67.
176. DePalma, p. 66.
177. Ibid., p. 71.
In 1972 an act provided for the allocation of additional
capital outlay funds for the K-12 program by making annual
allotments based on the number of instruction units in ex-
cess of the number in 1967-68. A state corporate income
tax levied the same year helped the legislature increase
educational appropriations by almost $90 million for
The Florida Education Finance Program
It was again R. L. Johns who directed a special National
Educational Finance Project (NEFP) study of Florida's school
finance structure for the Florida DOE in 1973.0 Although
the Citizens Committee on Education appointed in 1971 by
Governor Askew was generally credited with originating the
basic thrust of the 1973 school finance bill, DePalma re-
ported that the DOE was closely involved in writing the
Committee's final report and provided the bulk of the tech-
nical and statistical computations which were initially
178. Laws of Florida (1972), Chapter 72-329, pp. 1202-
1204, cited in Johns, Evolution, p. 68.
179. Johns, Evolution, p. 68.
180. S. K. Alexander, R. L. Johns, & K. F. Jordan,
Financing the Public Schools of Florida (Gainesville, Fl.:
National Educational Finance Project, 1973).
presented in the NEFP study.181 Regardless of the source,
the recommendations which were enacted into the Florida
Education Finance Act of 1973 were aimed at equalizing the
financial resources necessary for improving equalization of
educational opportunity in the state.
The MFP was renamed the Florida Education Finance Pro-
gram (FEFP) in 1973 and featured the following changes:
1) The local standard for determining the state allocation
was changed from the instruction unit based on average daily
attendance to the weighted pupil unit based on the full-time
equivalent (FTE) student enrollment in each district.
Weights, or computed cost differentials, were applied to
each of 26 student programs: three basic programs for regu-
lar students in grades K-3, 4-8, and .9-12; fifteen special
programs for exceptional students; six vocational-technical
programs; and two programs for adult general education.
This provision of the FEFP recognized the cost variations
of educational programs due to specific student needs.
2) The separate teachers' salary allocation schedule was
abandoned and the allotments for instructional salaries and
current expenses were combined. 3) Additional allotments
181. DePalma, p. 72.
were computed for transportation and a number of categorical
programs (e.g., occupational specialists, elementary school
counselors, driver education, community schools). 4) Dis-
trict cost of living differentials were added to the alloca-
tion formula. 5) A "power equalizing!' provision guaranteed
each district the same dollar yield for the same property
tax rate (over eight mills,but not more than ten) regardless
of local property market values. The provision equalized
local leeway dollars only if a district levied the full 10
mills allowed.182 6) The ratio method of determining re-
quired local effort had been rejected by the Supreme Court183
and local effort was computed on a percentage basis by deter-
mining the district's percentage share of the total net non-
exempt assessed valuation of the state.1
In 1973-74 revenue receipts of public elementary and
secondary schools totaled over $1.8 billion, an increase of
$440 million over the previous year.185 Of this amount,
182. Florida.Senate .Committee on Ways and Means,
Financing Florida's Public Schools (Tallahassee, Fl.: State
of Florida, 1980), p. 6.
183. Johns, Evolution, p. 71.
184. Laws of Florida (1973), Chapter 73-345, pp. 1235-
185. Johns, Evolution, p. 23.
state sources accounted for just over $1 billion, or 56.3
percent; and local sources contributed $628 million, or 33.8
percent. Although the 1970 School Equalization Act had
seemingly "set Florida squarely in the direction of full
state funding," 187the percentage of school revenue from
state sources had actually declined somewhat.188
It is ironic to note that although the FEFP was spe-
cifically intended to simplify the financing program for
elementary snd secondary education, the amendments which
have been made to the original legislation have made it far
more complex than the 1972-73 MFP it replaced.189 Neverthe-
less, the establishment of the FEFP was a landmark in the
development of the state's school finance plan and its promise
of equalized educational opportunity provided the touchstone
for subsequent school finance legislation in the 1970's
186. Digest of Education Statistics, 1976 edition
(Washington, D. C.: National Center for Education Statis-
tics, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1977), p. 70.
187. DePalma, p. 70.
188. Johns, Evolution, p. 19.
189. Ibid., p. 73.
Evolution of the FEFP (1974-81)
A 1974 law discontinued the provision for supplemental
ad valorem tax equalization and limited the required local
effort to no more than eight mills of tax levied on 95 per-
cent of the nonexempt assessed valuation.190 The Public
Education Act of 1975 provided for the computation of a
compensatory education supplemental cost factor beginning in
1976-77. A sparsity supplement was to be added to the basic
amount for district current operations beginning the same
year. By 1974-75 the push for equalization was beginning
to reap substantial rewards due to the unflagging efforts
of legislators, the commissioner, key DOE staff members,
educational leaders across the state, and school finance
experts who shared the same goals and objectives for Florida's
schools. In 1974-75 the median per pupil expenditure in the
10 poorest districts was 89.8 percent as much as the median
expenditure in the 10 wealthiest districts.192 For the
190. Laws of Florida (1974), Chapter 74-227, pp.
608-630, cited in Johns, Evolution, p. 72.
191. Laws of Florida (1975),. Chapter 75-284, pp.
1014-1040, cited in Johns, Evolution, p. 72.
192. Johns, Evolution, p. 77.
year, the FEFP formula appropriation was increased by ap-
proximately $97 million.193
A 1976 law established the Special Facility Construc-
tion Account to provide funds to school districts which
lacked sufficient resources for immediate construction
needs.194 In 1977 legislators again expressed their "commit-
ment to guaranteeing each student in this state an equal
opportunity to an appropriate education commensurate with
his or her abilities" by requiring a minimum level of fund-
ing for compensatory education of $26.5 million for the
1978-79 fiscal year.195 The required local effort was
raised to 6.4 mills.196
Based on a study of actual program costs for 1977-78,197
the 1978 Legislature adjusted the cost factors for many
educational programs under the FEFP.198 The legislation
avoided major disruptions in district educational programs
193. Florida Senate Committee on Ways and Means, p. 73.
194. Laws of Florida (1976), Chapter 76-280, pp. 758-
195. Laws of Florida (1977), Chapter 77-417, pp. 1728-
196. Ibid., Chapter 77-465, p. 1932.
197. Florida Senate Committee on Ways and Means, p. 75.
198. Laws of Florida (1978), Chapter 78-405, pp. 1288-
by making gradual yearly changes in the program cost factors,
rather than using the actual cost figures to compute the
relative differences all at once. By 1980-81, 75 percent of
the actual costs for FEFP programs was used to calculate the
FEFP formula appropriation.199 Cost factors for educational
alternative programs and profoundly handicapped programs
were added in 1978 while appropriations for several cate-
gorical programs were deleted.
Legislation in 1979 contributed to the burgeoning com-
plexity of Florida's school finance structure by again
modifying the method for computing state allocations for
current operations. Additional funding was provided for
school districts with declining FTE enrollments and for the
development of a cost of education index which would be used
instead of the FEFP formula's district cost differential
factors. In regard to the latter provision, the legisla-
ture's intent was again stated clearly: "Such index, if
used, shall guarantee, to a greater degree than the Florida
Price Level Index, to each student in Florida's public
schools the availability of programs and services appropriate
199. Florida Senate Committee on Ways and Means, p. 75.
200. Laws of Florida (1979), Chapter 79-312, pp. 1116-