Pasco superintendent chastises local House members over charter school funding
Superintendent Kurt Browning, one of Pasco County's most popular and prominent Republican officials, is taking to task two of his local House members for their position on charter school funding.
Specifically, Browning spoke to a measure sponsored by Miami Rep. Erik Fresen, which would require school districts to share their capital improvements property tax revenue with charters. Lawmakers have been pushing for a couple of years to funnel more taxpayer money to charter schools, which are privately run but publicly funded. (See stories from 2013 and 2014 for examples.)
Already, Browning noted, the state cut districts' maximum local property tax for construction and other capital needs. Many districts including Pasco have turned to sales taxes to boost their funding for projects. But that hasn't been enough, the superintendent said in e-mails to speaker-in-waiting Richard Corcoran and newly elected Danny Burgess.
Forcing districts to give up a portion of what they have to charters, whose leaders should have anticipated their own needs before opening, rubs the wrong way, Browning wrote. Here's his full e-mail:
Richard...I just read that the House adopted an amendment by Rep Fresen that will require school districts to share part of the 1.5 mills with charter schools. This is VERY problematic. School districts are already strapped for capital dollars. The millage was 2 mills but the Legislature cut it to 1.5 all the time our school facilities are in disrepair. The Legislature will not even consider giving local district the option of increasing the millage to 2 mills by a supermajority vote. With the vote of the House, school district(s) will be in a position of having difficulties in meeting debt service payments. A great deal of the 1.5 mills goes to debt service. Additionally, this may very well cause school districts to have their bond ratings reduced making it even more difficult to borrow if they have the capacity. I am not opposed to charter schools but I have a very hard time when public dollars are diverted to for profit charter schools that knew what they were getting into when they established their charter. Public schools continue to suffer while for profit charters benefit. I am very disappointed in the actions of the House.
The public response so far has been an auto-reply from each lawmaker acknowledging receipt of the e-mail. The Senate has not completed debate on its bill looking at charter school law changes, so the ultimate outcome of this issue remains to be seen. Stay tuned.