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Bill Requiring Property Tax Revenue to Pay For Charter School Construction Advances

| February 7, 2012

Next time, you're paying for it: Imagine School officials celebrate their expansion last August. (© FlaglerLive)

A sweeping charter school measure passed through the Senate Education Committee on Monday after a heated debate over a provision that would require school districts to give some construction money to public charter schools.

The measure (SB 1852) would not only require charter schools to receive a prorated share of the construction money raised by local property taxes, but would also allow high-performing charter schools to create up to three new charter schools a year and to expand enrollment and grade levels.

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The overall bill passed 5-1 along party lines, following an identical vote to shoot down an amendment aimed at stripping the construction provision from the bill.

Supporters of that provision said it would create more parity between charter schools and other public schools. In all, the millage used to support capital costs in 40 school districts raises about $1.9 billion a year.

“The real point is: Is my child worth what every other child is worth in this state?” asked Scotti Haney, a mother of charter school students in Bay County. “And that’s what the Legislature’s going to have to tell us.”

But opponents slammed the measure as a form of “corporate welfare” that would provide tax dollars to the private operators of charter schools — despite the fact that supporters of charter legislation said years ago that they would not ask for capital outlay dollars.

“This legislation is a plan to give public tax dollars away to for-profit corporations to buy assets that the public will never own,” said Kathleen Oropeza of the advocacy group Fund Education Now.

School districts also argued that much of the money had already been dedicated to fund borrowing for existing projects and some of the funds paid for maintenance.

“We are not anti-charter school,” said Georgia Slack, a lobbyist for Broward County schools. “We are pro-trying to keep our buildings and our facilities from becoming disreputable parts of neighborhoods.”

The amendment was one of 13 filed by Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, the lone Democrat to attend Monday’s meeting. Because the committee set a cutoff point for debate to hear two additional bills from other members of the committee, 12 of Montford’s amendments were not heard and debate on the bill was constrained. But the two following bills passed quickly, leaving more than a half an hour left in the committee’s meeting time.

The committee spent about an hour on legislation from senators who weren’t on the committee before taking up the charter school bill.

Education Committee Chairman Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, conceded that the committee could have heard more of the amendments and more discussion of the bill and shouldn’t have shut things off so quickly.

“I thought that the last two (bills) were going to last a lot longer than they did,” Wise said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it. It was my mistake on that one.”

Montford said he didn’t view the move as an intentional procedural maneuver, and that the amendments were likely to re-emerge at another one of the bill’s stops. The measure still has to pass the Higher Education and Budget committees before heading to the floor.

“There will be another stop,” Montford said. “We’ll have plenty of time to continue the discussion.”

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida

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21 Responses for “Bill Requiring Property Tax Revenue to Pay For Charter School Construction Advances”

  1. Gosh
    Do we have politicians telling fibs?
    And not following their own rules of order?
    Bet they had their fingers crossed.
    Glow Scott just keeps selling off Florida.
    The people have been made “values voters” and they vote for things that are against
    their interests but couched in the vitriol of the value
    and benefiting another group.

    Good Article

  2. w.ryan says:

    Public education? Not for long! We’ll all be paying in multiple ways for education. They are paving the way.

  3. Liana G says:

    Mr Ryan, we are already paying. In FL, it costs only $11,000 a year to educate 1 child. But it costs $20,000+ a year to house 1 prisioner. These numbers are/can be higher/lower in other states. America has the most individuals in prisons in the industrialized world, and more than China and India combined (the 2 most populous countries). We cannot pin this on our immigrant population either. Both Canada and Australia have higher immigration populations than us.

    Not so fast Kip:

    Adam Smith wrote in ‘The Wealth of a Nation’ –

    “Were the students upon such charitable foundations left free to choose what college [schools] they liked best, such liberty might contribute to excite some emulation among different colleges [schools].”

    Thomas Paine – “compulsory education violated individual conscience.”

    British philosophers John Stuart Mill and John Locke perspective –

    “state-sponsored education is a contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another.”

    Milton Friedman – Nobel Prize Economist

    “schools could be just as “public” if the government financed but didn’t administer them.” (the GI Bill concept)

    Education Week . “Most 4th graders who live in U.S. cities can’t read and understand a simple children’s book, and most 8th graders can’t use arithmetic to solve a practical problem.”

    Charter schools and the NAACP – Advancing coloured people? (Jun 23rd 2011)

    …”Stanford University released a study last year which found that New York City’s charter schools produce “significantly better results” for their students in reading and in maths than traditional schools. The results also show that black and Latino children in New York charters do significantly better in reading and maths than in regular schools. We are “hitting it out of the ballpark”, says Eva Moskowitz, who runs seven charters in Harlem.”…

    • Liana G says:

      Charter schools and the NAACP – Advancing coloured people? (Jun 23rd 2011)

      • w.ryan says:

        Look at the source for your info and try to understand why the Economist deliveries their point of view. The NAACP’s point is that obviously mitigating circumstances have a lot more to do with education in distressed children no matter the color. Charter Schools undermine the rights to a free education under the law. I’m for public education. As for the Prison Industrial Complex you refer to I agree that the imbalance is astounding. But this also has a lot to do with the Drug War and politics, and legalization of marijuana as a controlled substance. The right of individuals are always challenged by a police state. The simplest way to see my point is to ask, why should tax dollars be taken away from public education and given to spent on corporate education. This is corporate welfare.

        • Liana G says:

          “Charter Schools undermine the rights to a free education under the law.” And public education undermines the right to a quality education. Our tax dollars are simply giving us parents freedom to choose the best possible education for our children. Why should we be denied that choice? Why should my/our tax dollars fund a monopolized corrupt gov’t welfare system whose policies perpetuate an regressive class system?

          If we are going to demand parents step up and practice responsible parenting, then the first step should be to give them the option to choose. Or are parents just too dumb to make informed and educated choices? Doesn’t say much for the free public education forced upon us then, does it?

  4. Give it a rest says:

    Liana – can you please share where you found that Florida pays $11,000 per student to educate them?

  5. Anita says:

    If charter schools in Florida are under performing, why are our taxes funding THEM and not public schools? Parents who choose to send their kids to charter schools should bear the cost of any shortfall, not the taxpayer. Nothing is going to replace the parental presence in a child’s academic life.

    Liana, those quotes you’ve reproduced are fine as far as they go, but too many parents these days deliver their kids and their responsibilities to the schoolhouse door. PERIOD. When my kids were not receiving what I knew to be a quality education, I made an appointment with the Principal AND the teacher to discuss the reasons and to ask what I could do to work WITH them. This was in NY, but I doubt educators here, in Florida, would be immune to an offer of cooperation made by a parent. It ain’t easy, but it is important. It’s Your child and your child’s future!

    • Liana G says:

      Anita, many our public schools are also under performing and yet our taxes continue to fund them. May I also point out that parents are taxpayers too! What do you propose we, society, do about those children who are not blessed with any parental presence, positive, absent, or otherwise?

      For the most part, parents can only teach their children what they know, i.e., what was taught to them. If parents do not know how to be responsible parents, how can we expect them to parent responsibly? Therefore, the responsibility lies with society if we are to prevent/control this cycle of irresponsible parenting from repeating.

      Which benefits society, taking on the responsibility to properly prepare these children to be responsible productive members of society who will undoubtedly give back to society, or building vast prison compounds to house irresponsible nonproductive individuals economically burdensome and dangerous to society?

  6. some guy says:

    OUR TAX $$$ should follow the kid not the other way around. Maybe not all but at least 85% of the total amount government spends per kid. send it to the parent let them decide witch school is best for their kid. the rest can go to the local Government school. That way one who wishes just to deliver their kid to the school house door can and those who want more for their kids will have the chance at giving them more!

  7. Out of curiosity says:

    Here’s the problem, although it does not apply to ALL charter schools there are some for-profits that are manipulating the system:

    • Liana G says:

      Agreed, just like there are public schools manipulating the system. All we need to do is look at the salaries of some of the administrators, and ALL of the school board members in this poverty ridden district. Also look the cronyism and nepotism that plays out. Not to mention all the other ‘questionable’ stuff that goes on that really needs to be investigated and exposed, including the special favors in granting district contracts. And through it all, we, the taxpayers and our children, are stuck with these schools because we have no choice in the matter. At least with the corrupt charters and other schools, parents have the choice to withdraw their kids, or oust the individuals.

  8. Liana G says:

    Anita, I did not want to mention this, but my conscience would not let me ignore it. I do know for a fact that there are public schools here in FL that willingly embrace working with parents to help meet the educational needs of their kids (this is the 3rd FL school district I’ve lived in). Unfortunately, I have not observed this in the 7 years that I have been here in Flagler, and I have asked for help. Interestingly too, one of my kids was tested for the gifted program here as a result of her high FCAT scores but she did not make the cut. However, she was in the gifted program in her GA school, a school that benefitted heavily from the academic and financial resources of the University of GA because many of the professors and administrators children attended that school. I did not push the issue because I did not particularly care for the program. But I wonder about the real reasons behind the decision, given that the test was administered by an individual and not computer based.

    Past experiences have me also wondering how much of ESE funds are actually spent on meeting the individual needs of ESE students in this district. My other child went for an entire year barely receiving her speech services, yet from what I know now, I strongly believe that the district did receive the full ESE funds for her speech therapy.

    I wonder too how much of Title 1 funds actually go to the designated Title 1 schools instead of being diverted to non Title 1 schools. FPC is a Title 1 school with 2,700+ students (?), yet their administrative resources are less than MHS which is not a Title 1 school, and their student population is only around 1,500.

    I was recently reading up on the school scandal in California and was surprised to learn that a principal in our state (with no state taxes) and our district ( very low cost of living and housing), is paid a $100,000+ salary, the same amount a principal makes in an expensive state like CA (very high taxes, cost of living, and housing). There is a nasty attitude of “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” by some of the employees in this district that needs to go away by making them go away.

  9. One of the HONEST ONES says:

    Correct me if I am wrong. I thought the Charter School in this county was being closed because the children were not making the grades. Seems to me all these Charter Schools should not get any financial support through property taxes. If the people want Charter Schools do as the Private Schools do pay for them yourselves. We tax payers are burdened enough in this county.

    • Liana G says:

      Are you saying that parents are not taxpayers? Sorry, WE do pay taxes – federal and property too! I don’t particularly care for my kids to make the ‘highly unusual’ (Mr Devine’s words – the district’s FCAT coordinator) FCAT grades in this district! It will be interesting to see how the kids fare this year with FLDOE paying close attention.

  10. palmcoaster says:

    @OutofCuriosity Thank you so much for the revealing link about how fraudulent are these charter schools deals while draining our taxpayers pockets. This is what conservative privatization is all about! Let them steal us blind.
    @OneoftheHonest.Yes the last I know is that school board terminated the funding for Imagine given its failing grades. Unless Rick Scott comes on its aid…nothing surprises me anymore.

  11. charterschoolteacher says:

    Just to clarify, there are three charter schools in this county as of right now: Imagine Schools, Heritage, and Palm Harbor. These school all operate under separate charters, and Imagine has not been closed down. Please double check facts before posting to help prevent misconceptions. The school board is looking to close down Heritage, not Imagine or Palm Harbor. Imagine was a C rated school last year, and an A the year before. We are not a failing school. Thanks! As far as the private vs. public issue, charter schools are PUBLIC schools and as such should be granted the same monies that other public schools are awarded, and that includes millage. Our parents are also tax payers, and why should their tax dollars not follow their students to the school they choose to send them to?

  12. palmcoaster says:

    @charterteacher. You are correct, some of us mistakenly took Imagine for Heritage and Palm Harbor Anyway all Flagler County’s three charter schools did especially poorly on the rankings, coming in lower than all the traditional schools as reported;
    In two cases, Palm Harbor Academy and Heritage Academy, the schools were ranked at the absolute bottom of their categories, in the first percentile. Imagine School at Town Center did slightly better, ranking 153rd out of 194 schools, and notching a percentile of 21.
    Taking in account that charters schools in a very bias and overprotective way are held to more lag standards by the education authority than our traditional public schools. In spite of our confusion facts show that charters fail.

  13. charterschoolteacher says:

    Could you please elaborate on the lag standards that charter schools are held to? As far as I know, and I’ve spent time in both, all public schools are required to teach the Sunshine State Standards, and have the same FCAT test upon which they are graded. Add to that the fact that charter schools need to do this with less funding because they only receive about 65% of the funding that other public schools receive. (Unless the proposed bill mentioned above goes through)

    Another point to consider especially in the case of Imagine and Palm Harbor is that they are both relatively new schools, and in the case of Imagine its enrollment has almost doubled every year. When your enrollment is doubling often it is because you are enrolling students who are disenfranchised with the public school they came from, and in many cases they are coming to us below grade level. At Imagine, we like to measure year to year learning gains because many of our students fit this criteria. We do this through a Fall and a Spring SAT10 so that we can gauge the actual learning of each student, not just a snapshot of where they are in March. I have had students come to me reading far below grade level, and they made HUGE gains in my class….but they are still below where we want them to be…does that mean that we discount the learning that takes place just because they score poorly on one test? At Imagine, we celebrate the growth they did make, and continue to work hard to help them get where they need to be.

    Now that enrollment at Imagine is nearly maxed out, it will be interesting to see with a steady group of students how we do on the FCAT in years to come. (not that I’m a proponent of FCAT or think that it is an accurate assessment of a school or its students).

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