Public Charter Schools in Florida Ask Legislators to Support Education Funding for All Students

Tallahassee, FL – January 28, 2013 -- For more than 16 years, public charter schools in Florida have served students from Tallahassee to Key West, Okaloosa to Venice. In that time, public charter schools have provided a quality public education option to hundreds of thousands of families and, in many cases, met the needs of students in underserved communities.

Today there are more than 203,000 students enrolled in public charter schools in the state, and that number continues to grow. However, the funding for a public charter school student’s education continues to be far below what a child attending a district public school receives. This legislative session, the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) – the state’s premier charter school support and advocacy organization – is asking legislators to correct this wrong.

“Every year, public charter school teachers, students and parents are asked to do more while working with budgets that are below par. This is taxing our educators, and hurting the children they serve,” explains Robert Haag, FCPCS President.

“Charter schools are public schools and deserve the same level of financial support and opportunities afforded district public schools,” continues Mr. Haag. “Charter schools should have access to the latest technology with the latest software, and be able to afford to repair and renovate their buildings to make them safe and secure; to have equal access to school buildings that are sitting empty and are not being used for their original educational purpose; to be able to offer their students opportunities for virtual education. The legislative priorities we seek will bring equity to the current system of public education and, in the process, improve the overall quality of public education in our state. It will also help all charter schools better serve their students while continuing to be accountable for academic results and meeting their required state and national mandates.”

The legislative priorities listed below were developed using input from the more than 400 FCPCS member schools throughout the state.

Priority 1: Capital Millage Funding ( Section 1002.33 (17) FS, Section 1013.62)

Concept: Create a charter school Facilities Assistance Fund using PECO, Capital Millage, and General Fund for the annual allocation of $1189.00 per FTE.

The K-12 Public School Facilities Funding Task Force Recommends: “If a reliable and stable state funding source cannot be identified, the task force recommends that school districts be required to provide annual compulsory charter school capital outlay funding to charter schools, which is determined by multiplying the school’s projected student enrollment by the lesser of either 1/30th of the cost-per-student station specified in Section 1013.64(6)(b), F.S., or the calculated value of the district’s maximum potential discretionary Local Capital Improvement Revenue (LCIR) pursuant to Section 1011.71(2), F.S., divided by the district’s prior year full-time equivalent capital outlay enrollment.”[1]

Recommendation: See attached Charter School Facilities Assistance Fund Chart

Need: Public charter schools should receive a fair distribution of capital funding, to support new construction, purchase furniture/equipment, and to ensure facilities are maintained to meet all health and safety compliance requirements. PECO funds are no longer sufficient to meet the needs of public charter schools in the state.

Priority 2: Access to Unused District Facilities (Section 1002.33(18), Florida Statutes)

Concept: Charter schools have had difficulty in acquiring the use of district facilities due to selective interpretation of the following statutory language in FS 1002.33: “If a district school board facility or property is available because it is surplus, marked for disposal, or otherwise unused, it shall be provided for a charter school’s use on the same basis as it is made available to other public schools in the district.”

Recommendation: A change in the statutory language reflect greater access by charter schools to utilize district facilities not being used for the primary use for which they were intended.

Need: To facilitate access to physical facilities, any district facility K-20 not being used for continuing educational purposes shall be available to a charter school/operator/board of directors for educational use.

Priority 3: Independent Authorizer for Charter Schools

Concept: Allow more options for charter school authorizers.

Recommendation: Authorize state universities or 501c(3) non-profit organizations that have been in business at least ten years and have a positive balance sheet to sponsor a charter school in the state. The charter schools may include a secondary school with an option for students to receive an associate degree upon high school graduation. State colleges may not report FTE for any students who receive FTE funding through the Florida Finance Program.

Need: Currently, in many districts, school boards are the sole charter school authorizers. As the number of charter schools increase, services become limited. Expanding authorizers would extend opportunities for charter schools.

Priority 4: Virtual Education

Concept: Allow more flexibility for charter schools.

Recommendation: TBA

Need: Charter schools are innovative schools of choice, seeking to attract students who may be at risk of not meeting academic standards in the traditional setting.

Priority 5: Revise the Appeal Statute to Reflect a Grievance Procedure

Concept: Authorizing the charter school or sponsor / District to file a grievance for a FLDOE mediator to hear.

Recommendation: Authorize a charter school or sponsor to file a formal grievance if they cannot work out their differences. Upon filing, it would halt all closing activities until a fair solution is achieved.

Need: Districts have demanded that charter applicants sign contracts without any negotiations; i.e., “take it or leave it” policies, and continued to work to close schools that may or may not be in violation of their contracts. This process is currently one-sided and there should be due process in place with legal fees covered on both sides by the District.

Priority 6: Revise Term Limits on Appeal Members

Concept: Require term limits for Appeal Commission members.

Recommendation: The Charter School Appeal Commission should have staggered terms so there is rotation for serving members.

Need: Currently there are no term limits. Requiring term limits for commission members breaks ties to special interest, introduces fresh thinking and new ideas, and improves the quality of legislation.

Priority 7: Recertification

Concept: Authorize charter schools or a Consortium of charter schools to offer in-service points to teachers.

Recommendation: Authorize charter schools or a Consortium of charter schools to submit a “Master Professional Development Plan” to be approved by the State so that charter school teachers may take approved online professional development courses that are directly aligned with the charter schools curriculum, vision and mission, and reflect the needs of the communities they serve.

Need: Currently charter schools have limited access to HRD or professional development courses offered by the District and in many cases courses are filled excluding charter school educators access to these tax payer funded services.

Priority 8: Equitable ESE Funding for Charter Schools

Concept: Insure that charter schools receive the same ESE funding as traditional public schools.

Recommendation: Change language to: “Equitable funding for ESE to match the Revenue worksheet.”

Need: Currently, many charter schools are receiving up to 30% less ESE Funding than other public schools.

Priority 9: Equal Access to School Safety Funds

Concept: Given the tragedy at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, schools are evaluating their school safety plans and cost associated with improving school security.

Recommendation: Change language to: “Equal access to any state funds for all public and public charter schools for school safety on a per student basis.”

Need: Should additional state funds be made available for school security, charter schools desire to receive the same funding as traditional public schools.

Media Contact: Lynn Norman-Teck, l.norman-teck@floridacharterschools.org - 305-216-6208