TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Lawmakers in Florida debated Monday over an education bill requiring public schools to share funding with charter schools to level out funding on a per-student basis.
Charter schools don’t have the same authority as district schools to tax local property owners and HB 1259, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Canady (R-Lakeland), would give charter schools access to those funds.
But the entire black caucus in the House Appropriations Committee voted against the bill, arguing on the record against equitable funding for the 71 percent of minority students enrolled in charter schools. So why are Democrats betraying the largest minority school population in the state?
According to Rep. Canady, public charter school students in some districts lose as much as 20 to 30 percent of capital funding when their families exercise school choice.
“We can all agree that disadvantaged students deserve every opportunity to make the learning gains that will set them up for a lifetime of success,” Rep. Canady tells The Florida Standard. “Withholding funding from disadvantaged students is wrong. HB 1259 moves toward funding all public school students equally regardless of the public school they attend.”
The proposed legislation would still allow school districts to spend money how they want – on buildings, technology, buses – but money would be divided by the number of students, giving charter schools a fair share based on enrollment. But, according to Chris Moya, Education Policy Expert and Director of Management and Consulting at DeanMead, school districts and unions are fighting against it.
“The districts have had six years to get their finances in order,” Moya told The Florida Standard. “During that time district revenues have hit record highs as property values have risen.”
In the past six years, school district revenue from property taxes has risen 56 percent to $4.4 billion statewide. But in the same period, the public school population has decreased by almost ten percent in some counties, like Broward.
MORE MINORITIES ENROLLED IN CHARTER SCHOOLS
Since 1996, charter schools have played a key role in providing alternative options for parents in Florida. More minority students now attend charter schools than public schools. In addition, many charter schools provide innovative learning opportunities and services to students with disabilities and those at risk of academic failure.
“It’s unconscionable to continue to fund public charter school students at a lesser amount. Especially when you consider the charter student population is 71 percent minority and over 50 percent poor children by the federal standard,” Moya tells The Florida Standard.
The Florida House was in session today. Rep. Canady did respond to The Florida Standard’s request for comment, but members of the black caucus did not respond.