Task Force Tackles Building Funds For Public Schools

Sep 28, 2012

A state task force is trying to find ways to boost facility funding for charter schools, but it could come at the expense of traditional public schools and property owners. The move come after a proposal requiring local school districts to share their money with charters failed in the Florida legislature earlier in the year, but the issue itself is far from dead.

The pot of money usually reserved for school building and maintenance projects, called PECO funding, comes from a tax on utilities. And revenues have all but dried up.  So, earlier in the year state lawmakers created a task force to up with a permanent source of finding for those kind of projects.

The task force came up with a plan that only addressed the needs of charter schools. Under the proposal, school districts would be required to spend money on charters.   To do that, they could either Raise property taxes, or pay the schools out of their own funds. But local officials say it’s not fair, because the plan doesn’t address the facility needs of traditional public schools. 

“The issue you heard several other people bring up, is that it didn’t address the other charges, which is funding for facilities for traditional public schools," said Linda Champion with the Florida Department of Education.

In a Thursday meeting, traditional school advocates pitched another plan that would increase the amount of property taxes even more in exchange for the money going to both charter schools AND traditional schools. But at least one member of the group says she doesn’t like any of the proposals.

“No , It’s not palatable for me, I’m sorry, it’s not. We have to raise taxes because the state refuses to," said Sarasota County School Board Chairwoman Caroline Zucker.

Charter schools have long complained about not getting an equal share of money. And a study released earlier in the year reported that the difference in funding is at the local level. Normally, charter schools aren’t entitled to local school revenues.

The task force’s recommendations are still in the drafting stages. A final plan is due by the start of December. 

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