After years of trying, Fla. charter schools might get access to district property tax revenue

Since 2012, some Florida lawmakers have pushed to require school districts to share their local property tax revenue with charter schools. Proposals to that effect have surfaced multiple times. But they’ve never passed, until now.

Under a wide-ranging bill, approved by the state House and Senate on the final day of an extended lawmaking session, a portion of local property tax revenue would follow students to whatever public school they attend — district or charter.

The proposal is based largely on legislation advanced by the House. An analysis by legislative staff estimated the plan would send about $146.4 million to charter schools, or almost twice the $75 million they received through the current state budget.

The money eligible for sharing with charter schools is based on the amount of construction funding districts have available after subtracting the money they need to pay construction debts they accrued before March of this year. The amount districts would have to share would also be reduced based on the amount of charter school facilities funding in the state budget, which this year would be $50 million.

That means charter schools would receive $96.4 million from district property taxes.

Without HB 7069, charter schools would just get the $50 million in the budget. That would match the low point statewide charter school facilities funding hit two years ago, creating what some advocates called a “desperate” situation. With more charter schools opening, there’s a chance the shrunken pot of money would be spread among more students than ever before.

There’s also a chance some charter schools that currently receive state facilities funding might lose access it. New state rules may deny capital outlay funding to charter schools that earn consecutive state letter grades below a C.

Some proposals floating around during the legislative session would have eliminated the statutory requirement for the state to give state funding only to charter schools with “satisfactory” student achievement, but ultimately, those proposals did not survive.

Charter Schools, Funding

One Comment

  1. Peabody Bently

    College and Heaven

    “College and heaven” is the stated goal of the Florida Catholic school that Betsy DeVos dropped by on one of her first official school visits as the nation’s top education official. The all-star delegation to St Andrew in Orlando, which included Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump, was intended to showcase Florida’s $700 million tax credit scholarship program, a concept that has more in common with money laundering than charitable giving.

    Florida, like many states, prohibits public money from paying for religious institutions, including schools. Tax credit scholarship programs are a nifty workaround to this dilemma, incentivizing wealthy donors and corporations to direct their tax dollars to religious schools through nonprofit organizations that serve as middlemen.

    The Florida program is the brainchild of right-wing venture capitalist and close DeVos ally John Kirtley, who likens public education to East Berlin under Communism, “where decisions were made at the top.” Over the past decade, Kirtley has invested millions to get school choice candidates elected to school boards and the state legislature as part of his crusade against what he calls “uniformity.”

    Tax credit scholarship programs like Florida’s are spreading from state to state; seventeen states have enacted some version of these, while new varieties seem to pop up every week. These “neo-vouchers” are a new solution to the same old problem that has vexed the anti-public-school crowd since the days of Mann. Here at last is a way for the wealthy and corporations who don’t enjoy paying taxes, least of all to public institutions, to score a windfall at the expense of the state’s public education system. And their young beneficiaries have an alternative to the “uniformity” of secularism and socialism.

    Sunshine State students can now attend the Thales Academy network of “classical” schools, founded by a libertarian businessman, that stresses the importance of a market-driven economy a la Von Mises. But count the Florida kids being schooled in alt-dismal science as among the lucky few. Of the one hundred thousand students now attending private schools courtesy of the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, 83 percent are in religious schools, where they learn about creationism instead of evolution, and agree to adhere to Biblical principles like not being gay. As for how students in the program are faring, it’s hard to tell; Florida’s private schools are exempt from annual state testing.

    The Florida program has just been expanded again, a priority for the new speaker of the House, a Koch-branded conservative who kicked off the legislative session by calling out the state’s teachers unions as “evil.” But the real goal in Florida is to make vouchers universal, finally freeing up the state’s youngsters from the dictates of the central planners, and incentivizing their parents to “seek the best bang for their buck” in education spending.