Saturday, April 21, 2018
Education

Charter schools land $91 million for facilities

TALLAHASSEE — Charter schools will receive $91 million for their construction and maintenance needs, state lawmakers agreed late Sunday.

The figure represents a $36 million increase over last year's allocation. But it falls just short of the $100 million proposed by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida House.

The deal was struck during budget negotiations that lasted late into the night. It is almost certain to pass the two chambers and win approval by the governor.

"We're very pleased that the Legislature worked to get specific capital outlay dollars to charter schools," said Larry Williams, who represents the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools.

The one-time allocation will come out of the Public Education Capital Outlay fund. PECO dollars are generated from the state's gross receipts tax on cable, electric and land-line telephone bills.

Charter school advocates had hoped to secure a recurring source of funding for capital outlay projects this year. On Sunday, they acknowledged that the goal was unlikely to become reality before the end of session. That doesn't mean the fight is over for good. "We need to move forward with a permanent mechanism that automatically funds charter schools' capital outlay needs," said former state Rep. Ralph Arza, who represents the Florida Charter School Alliance. "The parents of those children deserve a recurring source."

Charter schools enroll more than 200,000 students statewide and are run by nonprofit governing boards that function independently of local school districts. Some are managed by for-profit companies.

Like traditional public schools, charter schools receive state money for operating expenses, including teacher salaries and instructional materials. But while traditional school systems can levy property taxes to fund construction and maintenance, charter schools cannot.

For the past several years, the Legislature has given charter schools an extra boost through the PECO fund. Those dollars used to go to traditional public schools, too. But because fewer people are using land-line phones, the fund has been slowly dwindling. State economists predict it will eventually dry up.

Opponents argue that charter schools should not receive taxpayer dollars for capital projects because their facilities are not public assets. They also make the case that charter schools were allowed in Florida because they promised to do more with less.

Advocates, however, say children statewide should receive the same amount of money, regardless of whether they attend traditional or charter schools. A steady stream of facilities funding, they say, would help level the playing field.

Comments
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18
Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

LARGO — Starting soon, Pinellas County public schools could be using a nationwide violence prevention program founded by families of those killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012.The nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, with ...
Published: 04/19/18

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Published: 04/18/18
After Parkland, these students became activists. Will their movement last?

After Parkland, these students became activists. Will their movement last?

TAMPA — Sam Sharf’s parents thought he had the best position on the Plant High School football team. As back-up quarterback, he could impress the girls but rarely played enough to get hurt.Now a junior, Sharf is off the team so he can focus his energ...
Published: 04/18/18

Gannon University’s Ruskin growth includes $21 million addition

RUSKIN — Gannon University is experiencing some serious growing pains and as a result, SouthShore is going to see a big change in the landscape. When it opened its doors in 2015 as a satellite campus for its home school in Erie, Pa., Gannon occupied ...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18