Dayspring Academy, Pasco County’s oldest charter school, seeks 15-year extension

School district staff overwhelmingly support the contract.
Students in a differentiated instruction group at Dayspring Academy. []
Students in a differentiated instruction group at Dayspring Academy. []
Published March 28, 2018

Dayspring Academy, one of Pasco County's most consistently high performing schools, has requested a charter renewal that would take its operations out to 2033.

School district officials have recommended the School Board approve the 15-year term for the county's oldest charter school, which was co-founded by former state lawmaker John Legg.

They found the school met all 30 standards the district reviews for charters, including those relating to student achievement and financial viability. Over the past five years, Dayspring has had clean audits, and it never has had a negative audit finding.

"With respect to School Accountability Grade reports, the charter school has been the only 'A' rated public school on the west side of Pasco County as compared with eleven comparable student populations for four accountability years (2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17)," the district staff wrote in its review.

About half of the school's students are considered low-income.

If approved, the charter school would enter contract negotiations with the district. Legg said he anticipated some animated discussions at that point about financial support for his school's capital needs.

"We have to build a secondary building," Legg said, noting Dayspring currently uses a 40-year-old former civic association building that is showing signs of age and has security deficits.

Yet charter schools receive less money for such projects than district schools, he continued, despite serving the district's students and also, in Dayspring's case, being subject to district permitting, inspection and construction rules.

Related coverage: New law aiding charter schools leaves some of them behind 

In fact, he noted, the charter school has an arrangement that all its property and buildings are owned by the district if it ever closes. Several other charter schools lease property, often from their own separate real estate affiliates.

"We don't want to be in the real estate business. That's not what we do," Legg said.

But the school does want to have safe and secure facilities for its students and staff, he said — a message he has repeated before the School Board several times and also written to district administrators. So the Dayspring staff and board are hoping to negotiate a sharing deal with the district, something that so far hasn't materialized.

Legg held out little hope for a legislative solution devised this spring, in which the state provides nearly $150 million in capital funding to charter schools so districts do not have to share. The Legislature took this step after several school boards sued over tax sharing provisions in HB 7069.

The districts claimed the Legislature had no authority to allocate locally-generated tax revenue.

"It's a one-year solution to a long-term problem," Legg said of lawmakers' spring action. "Our board is saying, We can't gamble year to year on capital funding. … We're hoping they work with us, or this could end up in litigation."

The School Board is scheduled to take up Dayspring's charter extension on April 3.

Related coverage: Florida charter schools get final figures on local capital funding support