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Superintendents, Dems Call Charter Expansion Bill A "Power Grab"

Local school superintendents are up in arms over a proposal in the House requiring public school districts to hand over facilities if charter schools ask for them.  The issue came up repeatedly at a meeting of North Florida superintendents in Leon County with education officials and Democratic lawmakers calling it a power grab.

Over the past few years, the charter industry has pushed for greater access to local district resources, and a proposal in the House would require school districts to allow charters to move into unused facilities and only pay maintenance costs. That’s got Democrats like Tallahassee Representative Alan Williams upset:

“Obviously, there are some benefits to our charter school program throughout the state. But whenever you have charter schools coming in and saying, ‘we want access to taxpayer-funded school buildings’, I think that’s taking it too far," he told the group.

The battle over how much public funding charter schools should receive has been heated in recent years. Last year a proposal requiring school districts to share local tax dollars with charters failed, and opponents see this year’s public school facilities bill as an extension of that fight. 

Meanwhile, a bi-partisan duo of Senators is working on a proposal cracking down on charter schools after a failed Orlando charter school paid its principal more than $500,000. The failure of NorthStar High School has caught the eye of Tallahassee with legislation in both the House and Senate. Democratic Senator Bill Montford and Maitland Republican Senator David Simmons are sponsoring that chamber’s proposal and Montford says he likes his bill better:

“I much prefer the bill Senator Simmons and I are working on in the Senate. It’s a much more reasonable approach.” 

The House proposal also includes language requiring school districts to turn over unused facilities to charter schools if asked. Montford says he doesn’t know if that’s even legal.