Florida House moves to curb school construction costs, support charter school capital projects
Rep. Erik Fresen's pledge to "address the overspending of school districts on school facilities" takes a step forward Tuesday, when the House Appropriations Committee takes up a sweeping measure that would force districts into construction spending limits while also sharing local capital projects tax revenue with charter schools.
The proposed committee substitute for HB 873, which surfaced over the weekend, would prohibit districts from spending more per student station than outlined in statute, restricting their access to state PECO funding if they exceed the amounts. It further would give charter schools that meet set criteria, such as being in operation more than two years, a percentage of the local property tax that currently goes to districts only.
Here are some of the key proposals within the bill:
On charter school funding --
"A charter school shall be provided an amount equal to the remaining balance of funding needed to achieve the amount of the state funding allocation provided in s. 1013.62 after the amount of state appropriations is deducted. Annually, by December 30, the department shall calculate the amount of payments to eligible charter schools using the certified taxable value and millage rate as provided in the TRIM notice pursuant to s. 200.065 and certify to each school district the amount the school district must pay to each charter school based on the remaining balance of funding needed to achieve the amount of the state funding allocation as provided in s. 1013.62 after the amount of state appropriations is deducted."
On school district construction spending --
"New construction initiated by a district school board on or after July 1, 2017, may not exceed the cost per student station provided in paragraph (b). A district that exceeds the cost per student station provided in paragraph (b) is ineligible for allocations from the Public Capital Outlay and Debt Service Trust Fund for the next 3 years in which the district would have received allocations had the violation not occurred."
Superintendents have challenged the House interpretation of district spending, and are watching this activity in the House closely. They know that key lawmakers in the House and Senate have expressed a desire to have capital projects tax revenue be spent on a per-student basis, regardless of whether children attend charter or traditional public schools.
They fought it back in the spring, and are hopeful to moderate the House effort now. At least one district leader called the new amendment "bullying" and suggested if it becomes law, districts might as well stop building new schools and just build portables instead.
Senators have indicated they're listening to the districts, but have made no promises. The House Appropriations Committee meets at 3 p.m. Tuesday.