Group Title: historical review of the development of Florida's school finance plan
Title: A historical review of the development of Florida's school finance plan
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 Material Information
Title: A historical review of the development of Florida's school finance plan and the fiscal equalization effects of the Florida education finance program
Alternate Title: Florida education finance program
Physical Description: xiii, 176 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Shiver, Lee A., 1955-
Publication Date: 1982
Copyright Date: 1982
Subject: Education -- Finance -- History -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Educational equalization -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Educational Administration and Supervision thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Educational Administration and Supervision -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1982.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 171-174.
Statement of Responsibility: by Lee A. Shiver.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00098271
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000318979
oclc - 09248156
notis - ABU5828


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To Mother


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

the field.

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




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

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





GINI COEFFICIENTS . . . . . . .. .130

Summary . . . . . . . . .. 147
Conclusions . . . . . . . .. 151



B GINI COEFFICIENTS . . . . . . ... .170

BIBLIOGRAPHY. . . . . . . . . ... ... .171

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. . . . . . . . ... .175






COST DIFFERENTIAL. . . . . . . ... 107


LOCAL REVENUE PER PUPIL. . . . . . . 115


REVENUE PER PUPIL. . . . . . ....... 120


REVENUE PER PUPIL .. . . . . . . .124





FUNDS PER PUPIL. . . . . . . . .. 127


14 INEQUALITY TABLE . . . . . . ... 135



1 A SAMPLE LORENZ CURVE. . . . . . .. 132

TOTAL LOCAL REVENUE. . . . . . ... 136

LOCAL REVENUE. . . . . . . . .. 139

FOUNDATION FUNDS . . . . . . ... 140

STATE AND LOCAL REVENUE. . . . . ... 142

STATE REVENUE. . . . . . . . .. 143


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



Lee A. Shiver

August 1982

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
Florida, 1978).

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

poverty-prone districts.11

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

9. Ibid.

10. S. J. Carroll, The Search for Equity in School
Finance: Results from Five States (Santa Monica, Ca.:
Rand Corporation, 1979).

11. Ibid.

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

a distribution.

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

5th percentiles.

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

13. Carroll.

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-

tion units.

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

through 1980-81.

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

subsequent years.

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,

14. Ibid.

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

fiscally neutral.

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.



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),
p. 13.


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

take shape.

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),
p. 45.

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,
p. 9.

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

24. Ibid.

25. Pyburn, The History, p. 49.

26. Franklin, p. 2.

internal improvements to be used instead for the purposes of

public education.27

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 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

35. Ibid.

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

educational purposes.5

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

illegal items.67

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.

73. Ibid.

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

87. Ibid.

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

He added,

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.

100. Ibid.

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

119. Ibid.

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

precedent-setting act.

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

design involved

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

135. Ibid.

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,
p. 55.

139. Ibid., p. 230, cited in Johns, Evolution, p. 57.

140. Ibid., pp. 216-217, cited in Johns, Evolution,
p. 56.

141. Ibid., pp. 217-218, cited in Johns, Evolution,
p. 57.

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),
p. 1168.

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-

tion Act.

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

and 1980'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-

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