A special lottery fund created to reward Florida schools for boosting grades has been cut to the point that the state Department of Education wasn't sure there would be enough to go around this year.
The $119 million fund, known as the state's school recognition program, rewards schools with lottery money that have improved a letter grade or kept an A on the state's A-through-F ranking. But since 2006 lawmakers have cut about $38 million from the program while touting school reform plans that would reward teachers for better performance.
High-performing schools are slated to receive about $70 per student this year, down from $100 when the program was started in 1998. Last school year the reward money brought in millions for school districts with Orange earning about $8.5 million, Seminole $3.8 million and Lake $2 million. Schools can use the funds for one-time purchases or bonuses, but typically opt for giving a bonus.
Elementaries and middle schools usually get their dollars in time for Christmas. High schools get their money after their grades are released.
But because of the delay in high school grades and the fact that school grades have generally improved, DOE has been waiting to distribute the dollars until it's certain the $119 million will be enough to give all schools the $70 per-student rate. It's something education advocates believe goes against lawmakers' ideas for a merit-based education system.