A Florida Senate panel this morning approved a bill that, for the first time, would distribute local tax revenue evenly to charter and traditional public schools.
But it also stalled a measure that would increase districts’ local taxing authority. And school districts argue that measure must be connected to the charter funding proposal.
The ensuing debate raised new questions over how Florida lawmakers plan to overhaul school facilities funding for both charter and traditional public schools.
Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, sponsor of both bills and chair of the education budget subcommittee, said school districts had reached a desperate point. Property values haven’t fully covered from the Great Recession, and school districts have lost a quarter of their pre-recession taxing authority since 2008. But the state population is growing again, and so are districts’ construction needs.
Simmons cited the testimony of district leaders, who visited his subcommittee a few weeks ago. They described grim rituals like “bucket day,” when they rush to different campuses to catch rainwater leaking from their roofs.
“I believe very strongly … that we are in a crisis situation regarding the capital expenditures in our districts,” he said. Continue Reading →