Tony Bennett, State Board Wants More Capital Outlay For Charter Schools, None for Public Schools

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February 3, 2013

….and a reminder about Florida’s new ethics bill and Bennett’s campaign cash from Florida charter schools.

Seeking more capital for Charter Schools

By: Bob Sikes – Scathing Purple Musings

From the Bradenton Times:

BRADENTON — In 2012, charter schools were narrowly unsuccessful in getting a state bill passed to require public school districts to give charter schools some of their local property tax revenue, though they received about $55 million for school construction through Governor Scott’s controversial decision to give them all of the state’s available capital outlay funding. If a recently proposed FLDOE budget is adopted, they’ll get even more next year, while school districts again go without.

Last week, The Palm Beach Post reported on a report the FLDOE gave a Florida Senate subcommittee regarding the Florida Board of Education’s requested budget for next year. According to the report, the budget includes a request for about $64 million to go toward capital improvements, all at charter schools. If approved, the budget would mark the third straight year Florida has given capital outlay money to charter schools, but not to public school districts.

Capital outlay funds are typically used to build and maintain traditional public schools. Without funding from the state, districts are faced with raising property taxes to cover capital costs when they are not able to find the funds in their own budgets, which have been steeply reduced following years of declines in property values.

The Times refers to a Palm Beach Post report by Jason Schultz which revealed  just how the proposal drew the ire of the Palm Beach school board:

Some Palm Beach County School District officials are incensed at a state proposal to offer once again millions of dollars next year for capital improvements at charter schools — and none at traditional public schools.

That plan, those officials say, has set up a political fight for the legislative session that begins in March. School officials in Palm Beach County have estimated their buildings and grounds have $1.4 billion in capital improvement needs over the next 10 years.

“It’s absurd,” said Chuck Shaw, county school board chairman. “I don’t know where the state seems to think we’re supposed to come up with the money to maintain our schools.”

Advocates of the funding point out that public schools can levy property taxes to raise

School board member Frank Barbieri was as upset as Shaw at the proposal and called it proof “the State Legislature is hell-bent on the privatization of education.”

“It consistently allows charter schools to play by a different — and much more favorable — set of rules than traditional public schools despite charter schools using the same — and shrinking — pool of taxpayer dollars allocated to public education,” Barbieri said.

The Palm Beach board has been a leading opponent of Tallahassee’s testing and charter school priorities. They know that they can no longer say no the charter schools they don’t want and have wrested final oversight away. A repeat of last year’s brazen favoritism for charter schools by Tony Bennett and the state board opens themselves up to scrutiny.

In light of the new ethics  bill which would gobble up four legislators for their charter school ties, its important to remind Floridians of the financial relationships  that Bennett and state board chairman Gary Chartrand have with Florida charter schools. Chartrand sits of the board of KIPP Schools of Jacksonville. While Indiana’s elected superintendent of education, Bennett received campaign cash from Florida’s two biggest for-profit charter schools, Charter Schools USA and Academica.

Both Bennett and Chartrand will final arbiters in the event a local school board – like the Palm Beach board – the event the charter school’s application is turned down or the local board wants to close them. Charter Schools USA has already prevailed in one such appeal.

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