Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, even boldly proclaimed that while some items remain outstanding in this year's budget that top Republicans had closed out "99 percent" of the line items before them. (That's Tallahassee-ese for reached agreement and therefore there's no need to talk about it again.)
But in actuality the House and Senate budget negotiators "bumped up" the entire main funding program for public schools also known the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). (More Tallahassee-ese - this means they kicked up the final decision to the top budget chairs because they failed to reached a decision.
And one of the main sticking items that has snagged the budget negotiations has gotten very little public discourse in the meetings between Sen. Bill Galvano and Fresen.
It's called "compression."
So what is this?
In theory it's an attempt to compress the per-student funding ranges that exist from one district to another. It's an effort to recognize that property values (which drive property taxes) are not in the same in every county. So the state adds extra money to help smooth out the range.
The way it's handled can be a big, big deal, however.
And that's what's happening this year.
The Senate is insisting on pumping $30.5 million more into compression than the House.
And right now the House isn't budging on this. Said Fresen: "We believe that the FEFP works the way that it is."
Translation: The Senate way of using compression creates a geopolitical rift. That's because pouring extra money into compression in essence dramatically impacts some counties more than others.
Duval County, for example, got a $411 per-student increase in its funding under the initial Senate plan compared to $401 in the House plan. Miami-Dade got a nearly a $417 increase in per-student funding in the initial House budget compared to a $399 per-student jump in the Senate budget.
Miami-Dade schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Tuesday that the difference between the House and Senate approaches in compression amounted to a $4 million difference.
It's not entirely easy to do an in-depth county-by-county analysis of the impacts because the House budget also included a $10 million increase in what is known as "sparsity."
This is extra money that goes to smaller districts that is meant to help districts whose buying power is diminished because they can't buy things in bulk like the larger counties. But the bottom line is that the House budget helps out many rural districts. Calhoun County, for example, gets a $512 per-student increase in the House budget versus nearly $445 in the House budget.
One thing worth noting: The House budget increases funding to Pasco County, the home county to House Speaker Will Weatherford by nearly $403 per student, while the Senate plan bumps it up only by $390. The Senate plan increases funding to Okaloosa County - and home to Senate President Don Gaetz - by nearly $448 per student. The House budget would boost Okaloosa's per-student funding by $450.
and how about this twist? The Senate plan is more generous to the home county of House budget chairman Seth McKeel. Polk County would go up $380 per student in the Senate budget compared to $366 for the House budget. But the House budget brings up the per-student funding in Martin County by $450 compared to nearly $443 in the Senate budget put together by Sen. Joe Negron.
These differences aren't as dramatic as the tug-of-war in the last decade over district cost differential (a battle pitting urban South Florida districts versus the rest of the state) but it's clear that so far this skirmish has kept the House and Senate from reaching a resoluton on the education portion of the budget.
And while teacher pay raises and tuition hikes are important so is how much money each legislator brings back to their home county.