When the roof leaks, you patch it until you can’t anymore. When the air conditioning goes out, the kids go home. This is not really about school choice and who gets the money: charters or regular schools. This time there is no choice. Since the millage for school maintenance was cut in 2008, districts have been making do. Eight years later, buildings are in disrepair, and a crisis is looming across the state. Counties have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in facility maintenance money. The time has come for a reckoning according to this report. How can we pay for this?
The Ocala Star Banner reports on facility repair needs from Miami-Dade to Alachua County. The solution is either to raise millage rates from property taxes or to impose a half cent sales tax to restore the 2008 funding levels for facility repair, buses and new schools.
Twenty-six counties have already raised money mostly through sales taxes. The other 41 counties have a hard choice to make. They can go to the voters, but some, like Alachua, already have an option on the ballot to renew a one mill referendum to support instruction, counselors, and technology.
The State of Florida helps to support facilities through PECO funds, but for many years, most of that money has gone to charter schools. The source of that money, taxes on landline phones, is drying up. As a result, Governor Scott has agreed to borrow $285 million in PECO bonds. No doubt the next legislative session will be in turmoil over who gets the money, charters or regular public schools.
Florida has been funding education on the cheap for many years. This is what the Citizens for Strong Schools lawsuit is about. We cannot wait for the courts to do its work. It is an election year. Make your views known.