Pasco School Board delays talk on charter school capital funding past primary election

Campaign signs for several Pasco County School Board candidates are popping up along roadways in advance of the Aug. 28 primary. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Campaign signs for several Pasco County School Board candidates are popping up along roadways in advance of the Aug. 28 primary. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Published August 7 2018

Pasco schools deputy superintendent Ray Gadd put the issue plainly to his board members: "Do we feel like some of the charter schools in this community are worth the investment of sharing capital dollars with?

If so, Gadd said Tuesday, the district staff is ready to work out the details. If not, he said, "then I'd love to drop it."

Board members demurred, saying they'd like more time to consider the possibility. They set a workshop for Sept. 4, a week after the primary election where three of five seats are up for consideration.

"This is a significant change, and we really need to talk about it," said vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley, who proposed putting off the conversation. "The public needs to weigh in on it, too."

Changes to the board makeup — at least one member will be new  — could lead to dramatic differences in the outcome.

Related coverage: Pasco School Board to discuss whether to share capital funding with charter schools 

District 1 incumbent Allen Altman, for instance, has said he might be open to sharing some of the funding with the "home grown" charter schools that have ties to Pasco County.

His challengers, Brian Staver and Kenny Mathis, have been less supportive of charter schools. Staver, who attended the Tuesday session, was livid that the board could even consider sharing revenue with charters.

"Giving more money to fricking charter schools? I'm sorry. I just don't believe in giving more money to charter schools," Staver said. "Our public schools need that money."

Board chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong, seeking reelection in District 3, didn't reveal her position, saying she wanted more information. In the past, though, she has voted in favor of new charter school applications.

Her challengers, Heide Janshon and Meghan Hamer, have indicated less openness to even that idea.

"I'm not in favor of charter schools," Hamer said in an interview, calling the state's funding of charter school capital needs "just frustrating when we have schools that might not get [air conditioning] repairs this year."

Janshon said in a candidate forum that she supports home-grown charters, but added that charter school management companies should not be "taking our tax dollars."

"Bring that money into our districts," she said.

District 5, representing northwest Pasco, could have a new board member selected by the time of the workshop. Incumbent Steve Luikart is not seeking reelection.

Hopeful Tara O'Connor, who attended Tuesday's meeting, said she wanted to hear more details about the sharing proposal before settling on the issue. She suggested it might be appropriate to share capital tax revenue with some of them.

"Charter schools, they are created. They're here to say," O'Connor said.

Other aspirants for the post have taken differing stances.

Candidate Kassie Hutchinson has decried charter schools, calling them "just plain dumb," while candidate Megan Harding has expressed support for charters.

"I do believe the money should be following the child," Harding said in an interview.

Candidate Mike Aday said he is "not completely anti-charter," but said he expects charters to be innovative and add something to the community. He also said the district should focus on "making our public schools work well" to avoid the need for charters.

By Sept. 4, the community might have decided who will be sitting in each of the three seats. The swearing is doesn't come until mid November.