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House Ties Money to School Dress Codes, More Dollars for Charters, Fewer Class-Size Penalties

| March 29, 2015

The Florida House at rest. (Steven Martin)

The Florida House at rest. (Steven Martin)

Charter schools would get more construction funding, class-size penalties would be relaxed and school districts would be encouraged to enact dress codes under a series of education bills approved Friday by the Florida House.

Most of the school-related bills were passed in lopsided votes, though Democrats united to oppose a measure that could funnel local tax dollars to charter-school construction (HB 7037).

While the construction bill would change the standards needed to qualify for the facilities funding and make it easier for some charters to expand, the most controversial provision would allow charter schools to tap into local property taxes used to pay for capital projects at traditional public schools. If the Legislature failed to fully fund charter-school construction under a state formula, local districts would be required to use a portion of a 1.5-mill property tax to make up the difference.

That would amount to about $34 million in the budget year that begins July 1, even if lawmakers follow through on a House plan to spend $100 million on charter-school capital projects, according to one estimate.

Supporters of the change, which passed in a 75-35 vote, say charters receive less funding per pupil for construction costs than other public schools and that the new law would help ensure that their funding more closely tracks the number of students.

“That 1.5 mill puts the public charter-school student and the district school student on somewhat equal footing,” said Chris Moya, a lobbyist for Charter Schools USA, a management company.

But in a statement issued after the vote, House Minority Leader Mark Pafford blasted the change.

“The Legislature shouldn’t starve public schools while shoveling resources to special interests,” said Pafford, D-West Palm Beach.

A bill (HB 665) relaxing penalties for school districts that don’t comply with the state’s class-size limits was approved on a 107-3 vote. Voters added the class-size limit to the Florida Constitution in 2002, but some lawmakers complain that the funds could be better spent elsewhere.

The penalties are not established in the constitutional amendment, leaving lawmakers with the ability to ease them.

“What we’re trying to do now is make sure that those dollars go back into the classroom,” said Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park.

But Pafford said the move was part of longstanding legislative efforts to undermine the class-size amendment.

“This is basically death by a thousand cuts in terms of class size,” he said.

The House also passed, by a 102-8 margin, a bill (HB 7043) that would make it easier for school districts to approve student dress codes and establish financial bonuses for districts that do so. Flagler County enacted a stricter dress code three years ago, though next month it may relax is to some extent. The discussions leading the board to consider relaxing the code pre-dated the Legislature’s bill tying incentive dollars to such codes.

–News Service of Florida and FLaglerLive

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7 Responses for “House Ties Money to School Dress Codes, More Dollars for Charters, Fewer Class-Size Penalties”

  1. YankeeExPat says:

    “the most controversial provision would allow charter schools to tap into local property taxes used to pay for capital projects at traditional public schools. “

    Florida has historically had the largest percentage of the failed and poorly performing Charter schools in the United States.

  2. Out of Curiosity says:

    Yes, dress codes! The solution to all of the ills of public schools! Good to see our legislature coming up with real solutions to problems facing education today.

  3. Karl Hungus says:

    If the legislature actually gave a crap about education, they would stop tying school funding to property taxes and instead tie it to the number of students and teachers within a school. Instead, we get charter schools and legislature-dictated dress codes.

  4. Sherry Epley says:

    This whole “charter”. . . AKA Private/Religious School evolution is slowly moving us back to segregated schools under a different label. Using tax payer’s dollars to fund private schooling “should” be completely unacceptable. Yet, inch by inch, it is slowly moving in that direction. . . with the legislators hoping we won’t notice. Unfortunately, most voters in Florida are just that easily manipulated.

    Lowering class size restrictions reminds me of the days we were sold “a bill of goods” regarding paying for Cable TV instead of watching Network television for FREE. “Pay for Cable and you’ll never have to watch a commercial again”. Yeah, right. . . and paying for “for profit” Charter/Private/Religious schools will provide smaller classes and more personal attention for your children. . . NOT!

  5. Nancy N. says:

    Just another example of the “anti-big government” GOP only disliking big government when it isn’t THEIR big government micro-managing every aspect of people’s lives. This uniform “bonus” money to “encourage” uniform adoption will shortly turn into effectively a mandate to districts as the GOP reduce funding in other areas to make it absolutely necessary for districts to get that “bonus” money.

    I thought the GOP was in favor of local control of things? Or is that only when “local control” allows them their way? Why are they trying to override the wills of districts like Flagler that have tried uniforms and have come to the knowledge that uniforms didn’t have the desired results?

  6. Sherry Epley says:

    Right On Nancy!

    The GOP only wants “limited” government when it applies to those regulations that oppose their particular agenda. Otherwise, they are all for controlling ridiculous/bigoted things like the gender police who will make sure the genetic code of those using particular public restrooms is legal. Now, it’s school uniforms.

    Meanwhile, public safety is greatly jeopardized by those “hands off” issues of dangerously distracted, technology obsessed drivers, and gun zealots with shooting galleries in their back yards.

  7. Lancer says:

    In the US per student spending, in 2010, was:

    $11,000 per elementary student
    $12,000 per high school student

    So the “we don’t spend enough money” argument is ridiculous. 2010 numbers were, arguably, at the low/recovery starting point of our economy.

    Currently, Republicans do control the legislature. However, Democrats have controlled education in the states and country for decades through their beloved “unions”. Teachers, as well as most government employees, vote overwhelmingly democrat. what are the results of our investment? Are you, seriously, pleased with the performance? It seems we have shifted our educational focus from the 3 Rs to promoting self esteem and feeling good about yourself no matter what. So…play the blame game all you want…but…where the rubber meets the road…the education and success of our students…is being mismanaged and could be overwhelmingly improved. There’s enough work to go around.

    Yes, there is a direct result between parental involvement and student success that is never really considered in these debates. I believe that Private schools are better than government schools, primarily, for this reason. Secondary is direct accountability of the faculty and staff which, many times, is not handled properly in many school districts because: the problem individuals are shuffled within the district and some are union protected. Last, is establishment thinking. Some private schools are boys “only” and some are girls “only”. Between the ages of 9- 13, when all the “changes” are taking place this may, may, be a viable option for the betterment of student development. Try doing this in a government school…

    Some areas, like Atlanta, GA, have ongoing challenges that are difficult to face: like 50+ nationalities and language barriers of students in their schools systems.

    We have serious issues in our education system and its pathetic to see people blaming ONE political party and not recognizing or, even, admitting there are problems within the government system and within the OTHER political party is simply absurd.

    Have a great day!

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