During the 2016 session, the Florida legislature passed a bill known as HB 7069. A combination of many other proposed legislative actions regarding education, the bill was one of the most highly contested in recent years. It barely passed the senate, and thousands of Florida citizens, including Superintendents and School Boards, petitioned Governor Scott to veto the bill.
Although some components of the bill will have a positive effect on public education, the results are devastating from a funding perspective. The bill requires school districts to share local tax dollars (capital outlay funds) with charter schools. This capital funding is sorely needed for traditional public schools, many of which are overcapacity, with no resources to build new schools or expand existing ones. Unlike with traditional public schools, this funding can be used to invest in private entities and property that the public will never own.
The “Schools of Hope” component of the bill redirects $140 million in public tax funding to out-of-state charter schools that operate for a profit without the same financial or managerial accountability as district-managed schools. Although charter schools use the same standards and standardized tests required by the state, they are not required to accept all children or provide for special needs.
School Districts Fight Back
Locally elected school boards charged with protecting public education are not happy with diverting public funds to private interests. The Broward School District has become the first to file suit against the state over HB7069, and other districts are considering the same action. The impact of having parallel competing school districts (charters vs. traditional schools) is a violation of equitable education that each of our students is entitled to. The loss of control and funding issues is reason enough to seek legal remedy, though not the only issue.
The expansion of funding for charter schools is part of the larger privatization agenda for public education that has been put on the fast track in recent years. But, it may not be too late to stop the dismantling of our public schools. Contact your school board and Superintendent and urge them to join Broward in suing the state to keep our public tax dollars public. Find their contact information here.