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November 02, 2009
Florida deserves kudos for protecting about $55 million in funding for charter facilities in the face of budget cuts, but they're catching a lot of flak from traditional school advocates, EdWeek reports:
School district officials across Florida are bemoaning the Legislature's decision to cut traditional public schools out of?PECO?the Public Education Capital Outlay program. The state's 350 charter schools will share $55 million, while the approximately 3,000 traditional schools will go without.
"Every cent allocated for school construction went to charter schools," complained Lee Swift, a Charlotte County school board member who heads the Florida School Boards Association.
Swift said lawmakers should focus on "properly funded traditional schools" instead of pressing for more charters that drain resources from the traditional schools.
Charters are growing around the state, however, and many districts are stagnating or losing enrollment. Districts have also been flush with cash for construction in recent years even as charters have received less funding. Last year's Ball State report on charter funding inequity states that districts in Florida "encumber funds or withhold local sources from total funds available before providing charter schools with their 'fair share.'" Charters were already getting a raw deal before this measure was passed.
Florida has done the sensible thing by protecting a growing and historically underfunded sector of its education system.?Traditional public schools will continue to tap local sources for construction and maintenance, revenues that charters don't have access to. Cutting all schools equally, or even protecting districts at the expense of charters, only looks fair if you ignore the entire funding picture.
? Chris Tessone