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Friday, September 28, 2012

How can people say with a straight face that charter schools are public schools

From the Orlando Sentinel, by Lesley Postal

A Legislature-created task force has begun chewing over a proposal that aims to provide construction money to Florida’s charter schools — but looks likely to also generate lots of controversy.

The proposal — presented to the task force by the Florida Department of Education today — would allow local school districts to levy additional local property taxes for charter schools.

The task force was created by the Florida Legislature amid concerns from charter-school advocates that those independent but publicly financed schools have struggled with funding for facilities and other capital projects.

Last year, some lawmakers pushed a bill that would have forced districts to share property tax money with charter schools. The bill failed, and lawmakers then created the task force to study the issue.

During discussions today, it was clear the issue remains a sensitive one.

“Why should we at the local level have to raise taxes when you at the state level don’t want to raise taxes? ” asked one school board member.

(Sorry, it was a really bad phone connection, and I couldn’t catch the names of everyone who was speaking. The task force includes both charter school and traditional school officials and is chaired by a DOE deputy commissioner).

Joe Joyner, superintendent of St. Johns County schools, said any recommendation needs to also focus on capital funding for traditional schools, which have seen construction money dry up in recent years.

“Replace funding that was lost,” he said.

Robert Runcie, superintendent of Broward County agreed. “What are we putting on the table to add additional capital dollars to traditional public schools that have a enormous needs as well?” he said.

“It can’t be some people win, some kids lose,” he added.

Charter school operators, on the other hand, said they weren’t sure the proposal would really lead to capital funding for their schools — and they didn’t like the suggestion that they only get construction money, if there was a demonstrated need for more schools in a particular area.

School districts can only build new campuses if they can show the state they need the more classrooms.

But charter school folks said their campuses serve another purpose — offering parents choice and, in that competition, spurring traditional schools to perhaps improve — so shouldn’t be held to that formulaic standard.

You can be sure there will be mMuch more on this to come in the months leading up to the 2013 legislative session.

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