Money talks. This budget battle speaks volumes about what is important in the legislature this year. Everyone promises more money to education–sort of. The biggest issue is over how much of the increase local property taxes must pick up. Governor Scott allocates 85% of the increase to local communities. Senator Gaetz has expressed concern about the tax burden on local property taxes. He is suggesting a 50-50 split between the State budget and the local effort. There is likely to be about a $175 increase per student which will at least equal the 2007 funding.
This is how the money wars break down:
Governor Scott: $500 million increase with $75 million each for charters and public school facilities
House: $601 million increase with $90 million for charters and $50 million for public school facilities
Senate: $650 million increase with $ 50 million only for public schools
There is another battle brewing over funding for school facilities. As long as so many charters are run by for-profit companies, it is hard to be sympathetic to charter claims that they deserve more public money for their privately owned school buildings. Representative Fresen is leading the charge for facilities funding for charters this year. He is trying to discredit public school construction projects. He argues that the 650 charter schools should receive $90 million for facilities while the nearly 4,000 traditional public schools would receive only $50 million.
The fact that Representative Fresen’s wife and brother-in-law run Academica, the largest for-profit charter management firm with 100 schools, would not factor into his thinking, of course. You do remember that these large management firms have their own real estate companies that buy and/or lease facilities to the charter boards. Some of these leases are over a million dollars per year.