Wednesday the House (HB 5001) and Senate (SB 2500) budgets are aired. They are very different when it comes to education. Money for school facilities is at the heart of the issue.
The House bill provides $100 million dollars for about 650 charter school facilities and $20 million for the over 4,000 public schools. The Senate bill provides $75 million each for public and charter schools. Remember that charters are called public schools, but their buildings are privately owned.
The priority of the House is to expand charters. Originally, charters were intended to be low-cost alternatives to meet Florida’s population growth, and the need, at that time, for more schools. Now, nearly forty percent of charters are run by for-profit companies that make most of their money from real estate. Rents and leases often are excessive. The House wants local districts to share local funds with charters, and they want more state PECO funds to go to charters.
There is very little PECO money. The funding sources are drying up. The Senate wants to float bonds. The House does not. Where will the House get the money for these privately owned facilities charters use? It wants to take over public school facilities. See this News4Jax article for more insight.
Some charters fill a legitimate need. Too many simply duplicate what public schools offer. Instead of putting money into real estate, the legislature should put money into instruction. Schools need to offer extended days and summer programs. They need funding to improve aging schools. They do not need charters whose only purpose is to make money.