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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Charter schools want more public money

From the Tampa Bay Times, by Jell Solochek

A bill to expand the scope of Florida's charter schools is in trouble. HB 903 has hit the Florida House floor unable to win support for language that would dedicate a portion of school districts' revenue to charters for capital project expenses.

The Florida Charter School Alliance still has hope for the "equitable funding" effort, which remains in play in the Senate. So the organization, which boasts board members including former ed commissioner Jim Horne and Jeb Bush education foundation executive Patricia Levesque, has launched a new website to make it easier to show lawmakers your backing for the initiative.

"Provide your name, age, email and zip code. With this information, an email will be sent to your legislator, expressing your support of our efforts to equitably fund public charter school students," alliance president Cheri Shannon said in an e-mail to supporters. "In addition, the Alliance will be in touch with you if, and when, we need your support in reaching out to your local newspaper or community paper to further express your support of Florida’s public charter school students."

The site urges people to sign up to help:

"Remove the estimated 50,000 children from public charter school waiting lists, allowing them to be admitted to a school of their choice. Employ more teachers for public charter school students. Provide parents with more school choice. Ensure that public charter school facilities are safe and affordable. Parents should continue to have the freedom to send their children to the school that fits their academic needs and goals, with the guarantee that their full contributions as taxpayers will follow their children to whichever school they choose. Sending a child to a public charter school should be just that: a choice, not a sacrifice."

As noted, the bill has struggled in the House despite intense pressure from charter lobbyists, who have had no problem with Senate support. There's been talk of resurrecting the funding language in a House amendment or in conference, if the bill lands there.

One lobbyist told the Gradebook there's been murmuring of a compromise that would limit funding only to charters that don't send public funding to private enterprise for rent, but that such a thought hasn't gained much traction. We've been unable to unearth any such language or find anyone willing to confirm it. An interesting idea, though, given all that money that flows out of the state to companies like Imagine.

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