PECO funding

Construction of Leupp School
gallery.usgs.gov / Bureau of Indian Affairs

The Florida House has moved forward with a proposal to reduce the cost of school construction and steer more dollars to charter schools. But over the objection of superintendents, the House Appropriations Committee approved the bill. But it could face challenges in the Senate.

Florida’s charter schools are pushing for a dedicated construction funding source. The state now has nearly 700 charters across the state, but  a major charter school proponent says the schools are struggling to sustain themselves.

Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo)
The Florida Channel

Floridians could contribute to school construction projects at the same time they buy groceries under a House plan proposed by Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo).  The measure passed its committee with ease, but some lawmakers question the cost.

Florida House of Representatives

The Florida House and Senate are set to begin hammering out a state spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year after both chambers approved their respective budget proposals this week. Now comes the hard part: reaching a consensus.

Legislative leaders say this year’s budget process has been much smoother than in years past. After all, when there’s a budget surplus, more people get the things they want.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU News

The Florida House and Senate are $400 million apart in their state spending plan proposals for the upcoming fiscal year. The House is pushing a $75.3 billion proposal while the Senate's comes in at $74.9 billion. That’s a lot closer than the chambers have been in recent years, thanks to an influx of cash from a recovering economy. But the proposals take different routes to funding two key areas: water projects and school construction.

Water, Water Everywhere

LHatter / WFSU News

For the first time in years, Florida’s public, K-12 schools are slated to get state money for construction and maintenance. But school officials say while they’re grateful for what’s been proposed, they’re not ready to start counting those dollars just yet.

Governor Rick Scott’s proposed budget allocates  $80 million for new roofs, air conditioners and other overdue maintenance projects at the state’s more than 3,500 public schools. It may sound like a lot of money, but Halandale Beach Democratic Representative Joe Gibbons says it won’t go very far.

Charter schools are state-funded, but free from some of the rules and regulations that govern traditional public schools. Many of them are privately owned and operated. Charters  get less funding than regular schools do. The biggest funding inequity comes in construction and building money, but a bill in the Florida House could soon change that.  

Florida Board of Governors

The Board overseeing Florida’s public universities says the state has lots to be proud of when it comes to higher education. Over the past year the board has worked to increase its authority over local university boards. During Thursday's "State of the System" address, the board’s chairman said that role isn’t going to diminish anytime soon.

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.

Florida’s charter schools are looking for some extra money this year, and they’ve set their sights on traditional public schools to get it. Lynn Hatter reports the charter groups held a rally in Tallahassee Wednesday to urge the legislature to pass bills that would give them both enrollment and financial boosts.

Cheri Shannon with the Florida Charter School Alliance has a specific list of demands:

What started as a simple, charter school accountability bill quickly morphed into a debate over whether school districts should be required to share some of their funding. Lynn Hatter reports the effort follows a similar move adopted by the Senate last week on a similar funding mechanism to boost construction dollars to charter schools.

The state’s education budget is slated to be increased this year after years of funding cuts, and public schools say any increase is better than nothing. But within the traditional school structure, an internal battle is brewing. And Lynn Hatter reports it revolves around funding for one specific type of public school- charters.

Charters are public schools with more flexibility in who they hire and how they operate.  But there’s a trade-off to that flexibility, as a report out of a state tax watchdog points out:

PECO money dries up

Jan 13, 2012

The state won’t have any money for new school building, maintenance or repair projects for the next two years. Lynn Hatter reports the news comes after Governor Rick Scott told all of the state’s public schools, including charters, to give back unspent allocations from previous years.