There is a snake in the grass in the Florida legislature. We need to point it out to our local delegations before it bites us. This is the amendment to the House charter bill HB 7037. It was offered by Rep. Erik Fresen who is under investigation by the U.S. DOE for conflict of interest related to his real estate company and the Mater Charter Schools. We need to contact everyone we can; the legislative session is nearly over, and we do not want this to appear on the last day.
We mentioned the effort to require local districts to share local capital outlay funds with charters a couple of weeks ago: Charter School Facilities: Your Money, Their Property. The district capital outlay money is funded by a 1.5 mill assessment on your property taxes. Districts use it to pay for building loans and maintenance. For many districts, the money is encumbered; there is no money to spare. The amount for the fund has already been reduced from 2.0 mill to 1.5.
If districts have to turn over a portion of this fund to charters, how do they pay their bills? It is galling that Representative Fresen has sponsored this amendment. His sister and brother-in-law run Academica, the for-profit charter management firm that has frequently been the subject of criticism in the Miami Herald. The company is also under investigation by the U.S. DOE. Remember that Academica has its own real estate company which leases its facilities to its management company.
School districts are organizing to oppose these funding cuts. We need to help. Florida’s schools are already underfunded, and this just makes it worse.