by Leo Gordon and Naina Chauhan
Pine View has long been the center of discussions of privilege. Across the county, teachers, parents and students make assumptions and claims about this alleged privilege. In reality, however, does Pine View really receive more funding than other Sarasota County public schools?
In a 2012 piece for The Observer, Sarasota High School teacher Dean Kalahar spoke of Pine View’s perceived exclusivity.
“Take a look at the numbers and you decide if Pine View has become Sarasota’s semi-segregated elite public prep school for the not-all-gifted,” Kalahar said.
Pine View also received criticism last fall for being gifted of 130 air purifiers, seen as an advantage over other Sarasota County schools, following a parent-led fundraiser that raised over $70,000 in two weeks. The fundraiser was so successful, that the parents donated several purifiers to other schools, as well.
Perceptions of Pine View’s advantage in financial standing, though, are multi-faceted. For Booker High School student Leela Sundarum, Pine View’s perceived financial privilege has no bearing in reality.
“I was a student at Pine View for eight years, and I haven’t noticed a difference in ability between Pine View and Booker to provide their students all that they require. I feel like both schools receive the support they need,” Sundarum said.
According to Pine View Principal Dr. Stephen Covert, Pine View receives neither more nor less than other schools in accordance with the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) and local budgeting.
Pine View’s assigned Sarasota County’s Budget Specialist, Rob Macaluso, clarified that school funding is not determined on a school-by-school basis.
“The FEFP assigns funding based on full-time membership to calculate funding for programs to ensure all funding is equitable,” he said.
This equity is assured by the Florida Department of Education in a variety of ways. One method is the Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) factor, which is determined by student enrollment numbers.
According to the Florida Department of Education, “FEFP funds are primarily generated by multiplying the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) students in each of the funded education programs by cost factors to obtain weighted FTE students.”
There are also bonus FTE programs, like International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE), and Advanced Placement (AP). Pine View is provided an additional 0.16 FTE funding per student who passes an AP exam, which equates to a $50 bonus earned by an AP teacher. These funds must be used to off-set the functions of the AP program. But as any school can engage in AP testing, these funds are not unique to Pine View. Sarasota High School’s AICE program and Riverview High School’s IB both benefit from bonus FTE programs, as well.
Another way by which the state ensures equal access to funding is through discretionary and nondiscretionary funds. Discretionary funding, based on historical district and state formulas, goes towards operations like instructional materials and capital funds. Non-discretionary funding, on the other hand, is assigned based on enrollment. Much of the funds are used to pay school staff, or for reading allocations and supplemental materials.
In addition to state-wide funding, Pine View receives funds from the Exceptional Student Education or ESE Program. Any school can receive ESE funding, but Pine View is unique in that all its students qualify for ESE classification due to the entire school’s gifted status. ESE funding is provided to account for needs deemed necessary for ESE student success.
Macaluso said, “These programs are used to ensure uniform funding across the board.”
In addition to the state, county and capital funds, the Pine View Association (PVA) contributes significant financial support to the Pine View campus.
Each year, approximately $160,000 to $210,000 are raised by the PVA (this year as an exception). These donations are sourced from corporate sponsorships, advertisement spaces, family donations, and fundraisers. Funds go towards funding requests by teachers and clubs, planning events, Agenda books, Pine View Pride, Student of the Month, Proud Python, and five senior scholarships, among other things.
Former Vice President of the PVA, Susan Harris, said that while PVA likely handles more money than the average Parent Teacher Association in our county, the difference in funding is due to PVA’s management of elementary, middle, and high school directed funds, unlike parent organizations at other schools.
“Comparatively [the funds are] likely not very different from other schools,” Harris said.
Covert explained that in his view, from a financial perspective, Pine View receives appropriate funding.
“We have benefitted magnificently from the more than $50 million in local capital investments in our campus, and I applaud our district, our School Board, community, and leaders for making these investments for our students and school,” Covert said.
Much of these funds, Covert explained, will go towards a new three-story instructional building on campus. The new building and subsequent funding, he explained, will allow Pine View students to reach their full potential. Without the funds provided by the state and county, such improvements would not be possible.
“[The building] will truly help those students who follow in older students’ footsteps to stand on their shoulders, and reach even higher. From the third floor of the new building, these giants will see much farther,” Covert said.
Ultimately, the root of Pine View’s perceived financial advantage is unrelated to district or state funding. The demographics of Pine View’s student body — and the financial circumstances of a large portion of that body — are what lead to these advantages.
A version of this article appears in print on Feb. 19, 2020, page 1-2 of the Torch with the headline: Is there privilege at Pine View?