Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Florida charter schools get final figures on local capital funding support

Charter schools across Florida will get a combined $91.2 million from their school districts this year, as part of a new capital funds sharing program lawmakers created last spring.

The money comes from districts' local property tax revenue for construction, maintenance and related needs, the thought being that charters as public schools deserve some of the taxpayer funds alongside district schools.

If a district's debt service was too high, though, it would not have to send money to the charters. The idea was approved in HB 7069, which several school districts have challenged, contending the Legislature overstepped its authority in directing the use of local tax revenue.

The model does not help charters in four counties — Pasco, Lake, Dixie and Columbia — which end up receiving no tax money from their districts,  the numbers distributed Wednesday confirm.

The system creates some stark differences.

Dayspring Academy, Pasco County's oldest charter school, gets no money from its debt-laden local district. Had it been located seven miles south in relatively debt-free Pinellas County, the formula suggests it would have received close to $750,000.

Dayspring founder John Legg, a former state senator, said he anticipated such an outcome. He did not expect changes to the model for the coming year, as charters in most counties did benefit from the setup.

Several Pasco County charter school operators have in the past raised cautions that they might face financial troubles moving forward if they do not get added funding to support their capital needs.

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