House panel shoots down charter school construction funding

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A House subcommittee shot down language that would have allowed charter schools to tap local education construction funds, maintaining a significant gap in language between the two chambers on the legislation, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

On a 7-7 tie vote that included opposition from both Democrats and Republicans, the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee rebuffed an effort to return a pared-back version of the language to the bill (HB 903).

The original provision, which would have given charter schools a share of local capital outlay dollars on a per-student basis, was removed in a committee substitute crafted by the K-20 Innovation Subcommittee.

The overall bill, which would impose new accountability on charter schools and allow state colleges to create charters, passed 11-3 after the construction-funding amendment was defeated.

The construction language is still in the Senate version of the legislation (SB 1852).

Supporters of sharing the funds with charter schools say the charters are also public schools and that the construction money, which school districts rarely share, should be available for charter students as well.

Rep. Janet Adkins, the Fernandina Beach Republican who sponsored the measure, noted that the slice of state utility-tax money being used for charter school construction has remained flat over the last year even as the number of schools has grown.

“Actually, I think that — if we don’t do anything — that our charter schools will actually go away,” Adkins said.

But school districts have pushed back, saying that the measures would cut into their ability to fund school maintenance and construction at the same time that the state is cutting back on funding for those areas.

And they pointed out that the provision would technically punish school districts that have been most welcoming of charter schools, because those districts would stand to lose the most.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.