It’s that time in the legislative session. The proposed budgets are out. The bargaining begins. The Florida House wants money for charter schools. The Senate wants money for public schools.
Many legislators want money to expand tuition payments to private, mostly religious schools. HB 15 adds children of military families to the tax credit voucher program. The per student increases from 80 to 88% of the FEFP public school amount for elementary students. Middle school funding increases to 92% and high school to 96% of FEFP. The pretense that the Florida tax credit scholarship program saves money is gone. Corporate taxes that could help Floridians go to private schools that have little accountability and uncertified teachers.
Charter school bills feature getting a share of local property taxes for facilities, taking over struggling public schools, and creating a separate charter school system. In addition, they allow uncertified teachers in charters and require public school facilities be given to charters. There is more.
Estimates are that about 115 schools are in the category of being persistently low performing. Increased funding for struggling schools comes only if they are turned into charters. An additional $200 million must be found. Where is yet to be determined. The Senate has proposed an increase in per student funding, but the House proposal is lower. The difference may be diverted to charters.
Here are the House committee bills:
PCB PKA 17-01 Capital Outlay Funding. District requests to raise the local property tax millage back to 2.0 is not in this bill. It remains at 1.5 mills. Repairing roofs and air conditioning and paying debts is as far as the money goes. The House bill would limit the revenue generated from the 1.5 mills even if property values increase. Moreover, the House wants to give charter schools a share of this millage. In addition:
- Charter schools would be eligible for school districts discretionary millage and state funds if: District or publicly owned by an IRS exempt organization and transferred back to public if closed; privately owned and leased at fair market value by an organization not affiliated with the charter school or by persons affiliated with the board or school, a subsidiary corporation that directly or indirectly manages, administers or oversees the charter. ‘A or B’ schools qualify or a charter serving a more than 50% FRL population. Charters located in a conversion public school do not qualify.
- Districts would calculate funding for charters after subtracting their debt service obligation and the amount of state funds allocated to charters. PreK students appear to have been deleted from the calculation.
PCB EDC 17-03 HB 5105 Diaz Schools of Hope (School Improvement). This bill may have a very euphemistic name. It really is the charter take over bill for struggling schools. Public schools that receive a grade of ‘D or F’ shall negotiate an exemption from union contracts in order to implement programs and strategies to improve performance. Districts with a single ‘D or F’ school will be classified as having an educational emergency.
School with grades below ‘C’ for three consecutive years must implement a turn around plan that:
- reassigns students to another school,
- closes the school and reopen as a charter, or
- contracts with an outside entity to run the school. If after two years the school has not achieved a ‘C’ grade, another turn around option must be selected. A charter school with three consecutive years below a ‘C’ grade must implement a corrective action.
After three years of interventions, districts will be opened to ‘schools of success’. These are defined as high performing charter schools, and they will be designated as local education agency (LEA) just as districts are. They will be eligible to receive federal funds directly rather than through the school district. It’s like being a district unto themselves. Moreover:
- Administrators and teachers are not required to be certified as long as they are not criminals.
- Unutilized or underutilized public schools, or portions thereof, will be made available to schools of success at no more than $600 per student. They will be maintained by the district.
Funding for ‘schools of success’ will be available from the Public Charter School Grant Program, Special Categories: ‘Grants and Aids’, Schools of Success Revolving Loan Funds in addition to funding provided to public schools.
PCB PKI 17-01 Charter school or a high performing charter school system authorization. This bill takes more control away from districts. The standard charter school contract may not be altered in any way. The bill extends the authorization of single charters to charter systems. There are a few other details worth watching:
- blended learning instruction is not required to he held in a classroom setting in the charter school.
- surplus equipment and supplies can be used at other charters in the state rather than be returned to the district.
- the bill strikes the provision that charters that become a LEA, eligible to receive funds directly, may not contract with for-profit management companies.
- local discretionary millage must be shared with charter-schools-in-a municipality
gambling bill to add money for charters
HB 15 expand voucher bill https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/15/ByCategory