Construction money could go to Florida charter schools

The proposal would require school districts to share local property-tax revenue with charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated.

Construction money could go to Florida charter schools

After a Monday committee discussion about whether the proposal could achieve 'parity', the full House is now ready to consider it.

The property taxes collected by local 1.5 mill levies are used to build and renovate traditional public schools, as well as buy land. Charter schools receive most of this money from the state budget.

Charter schools are public but are often run by private groups.

Jennifer Canady (R-Lakeland), the bill's sponsor, stated that charter school students would eventually be equal to district public school children in terms of 1.5 mills.

According to the bill, districts will be required by law to distribute money in proportion to the number of charter schools enrolled within their district. According to House analysts the number of charter school students is expected to reach 371,253 next fiscal year, which represents about 13.6 per cent of public school enrollment.

Canady stated that the bill will provide a "five-year glidepath" which will gradually share the money from property tax.

The 'glidepath' would see districts share a 20 percent portion in fiscal years 2023-2024, 2024-2025, 2025-2026, 2026-2027 and 2027-2028.

According to an analysis by the House staff, districts are expected to receive $4.4 billion next fiscal year from the 1.5 mill levy. According to the phased-in method, they will provide $55,9 million in total next year for charter schools.

Canady, speaking of the first year, said that the school would share 20 percent of the 1,5 mills. This is a first step in ensuring that charter school students who are 70% minority and 51% (recipients) of free and reduced-price lunch get closer to equality when it comes to the resources provided.

The Democrats in the panel, however, rebutted such arguments.

Rep. Christine Hunchofsky (D-Parkland) pointed out that there are different standards and requirements for traditional public schools when it comes to building their facilities.

I think parity is wonderful, but there are no parity requirements for building schools. Traditional public schools have a different standard for building. They are used as hurricane shelters. Hunchofsky added, 'There are many other things happening.

Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola) argued, however, that the performance of students in charter schools is superior to that in traditional schools, and that charter schools are subjected to harsher sanctions for bad results.

Charter schools that have been found to be guilty of financial fraud cease to exist. It is not possible to say the same about Florida's government-run school system. We must work towards parity. Andrade stated that charter schools are the best option.

Chris Moya is a Charter Schools USA lobbyist. He said that purchases made with the money, beyond those related to construction, would be of direct benefit to students.

Software, tablets and technology are often among the legal uses that are allowed. To be against this policy is to say that we want to perpetuate the digital divide between minorities and poorer students', Moya said to the House panel.

Fentrice Driskell of the House Minority, D-Tampa disagreed with Driskell's claim that this bill was geared towards students.

This is really about the business, the contracts and the leases of these buildings. Driskell stated that the issue was not about the school's performance or whether it provided the students with what they needed.