Florida’s almost 3,000 traditional public schools will get no state money for repairs this year, while 350 charter schools will receive $55 million for construction and repairs.
All of the state cash budgeted for school construction and maintenance is going to the independent, tax-financed charters favored by the Republican-dominated Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott.
The Sentinel adds that the Legislature decided to “cut traditional public schools out of PECO — the Public Education Capital Outlay program.” PECO is Florida’s primary source of funding for maintenance and new construction in public schools, community colleges, and universities. PECO funds are generated through a gross receipts tax on the sale of utilities.
State Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, the chair of the Senate’s subcommittee on school appropriation, tells the Sentinel, “The reason the traditional schools aren’t getting any PECO cash this year is simple: They don’t need it.”
Lee Swift, a Charlotte County school board member who heads the Florida School Boards Association, tells the Sentinel that legislators “should focus on ‘properly funded traditional schools’ instead of pressing for more charters that drain resources from the traditional schools.”
According to the Florida Department of Education, charter schools are “public schools of choice” and are ”among the fastest-growing school choice options in Florida.” They “are largely free to innovate, and often provide more effective programs and choice to diverse groups of students.”
But Florida data shows that students at charter schools are not significantly more proficient at reading, math, and science than those at traditional public schools.
The Department of Education explains that charter schools “operate under a performance contract or a ‘charter’ which frees them from many regulations created for traditional public schools while holding them accountable for academic and financial results.”