How charter schools are funded in Florida
Bottom Line: A new battle is brewing in Tallahassee that started in South Florida. The battle is over the funding of charter schools based on tax increases passed in the tri-county area (and nine other school districts) last year. Yesterday, while addressing the new proposed legislation that’d mandate school districts share revenue for the tax increases with charter schools – a question popped up. How charter schools are already being funded in Florida.
It’s easy to confuse traditional public schools with charter schools and private schools but it’s pretty straightforward. Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of the school district’s curriculum. The name “charter” is specific to each school’s mission statement/area of focus but they all must meet the traditional minimum standards for academic achievement while maintaining integrity to their charter (purpose) and stable financials. They’re also schools of choice for the parents who send their children to the schools. In Florida we currently have aprox. 650 schools with just under 300,000 students enrolled.
Because they’re public schools they’re funded with public money, though there are some major differences. Mainly, that they don’t receive equitable funding on a per-pupil basis. Nationally charter schools only receive about 61% of what a traditional pubic school receives per pupil. In Florida it’s closer but there’s still a significant disparity. The average charter school in Florida only receives 79% of what a traditional public school receives. It’s also fair to say that they’re often treated as the red-headed step children of many school districts. We’ve commonly seen school districts attempt to provide as little in funding to charters as possible and this has especially been on display in south Florida with the tax increases that passed last fall with Palm Beach County being ground zero for lawsuits filed against the school district which has refused to share the increased revenue with them. That takes us back to the proposed legislation that’d mandate equitable treatment that’s currently being debated in Tallahassee. To be continued...