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National Education Group Apologizes for Inaccurate Report On Florida School Spending

A national pro-charter school think tank has apologized for releasing an inaccurate report about Florida school districts' spending on schools with mostly nonwhite students.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A national education reform advocacy group that released a report last weekarguing Florida’s urban school districts spend less on schools with a majority of nonwhite students has acknowledged the analysis was flawed and issued a new study with an apology.

The original report from pro-charter school think tank Education Reform Now stated that most of Florida’s largest urban school districts were spending more money per-student on high-poverty schools but were still allocating more resources toward majority-white schools. That turned out to be incorrect, the group admitted after receiving a response from Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

The problem, the study’s author said in an emailed statement, was related to how nonwhite students are counted in state data. If there are fewer than 10 students of a certain race or ethnicity attending a specific school, the state omits the headcount in order to protect the privacy of those students. The group said the omissions of those numbers skewed the data enough to produce incorrect conclusions.

“It’s always a good day when we can say states are making investments in historically-underserved schools and we apologize to the Florida Department of Education for transcribing the data in a manner that didn’t accurately portray the state’s investments,” according to a statement from Charles Barone, the group’s chief policy officer and co-author of the report. “We take pride in producing reliable research that can help improve outcomes for students and we appreciate having this error brought to our attention.”

The group’s  corrected study shows that, in fact, the Miami-Dade district spends significantly more money per student on schools with a majority of nonwhite students, as do most other urban districts in the state.

A spokesperson for Miami-Dade said in a statement the district “is proud to prioritize its most vulnerable students when funding schools, which is a model that leads to differences in funding attributable to the services and supports necessary to provide for high-need students.”

That’s why, the spokesperson said, the district spends the most money per students in schools that focus on students with disabilities and those with behavioral problems.

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Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.