How the Florida House and Senate plan to fund charter school facilities

The Florida House and Senate appropriations committees will debate competing budget proposals today, reviving an annual back-and-forth over charter school facilities.

The Senate proposes setting aside $75 million for charter school facilities in its 2017-18 spending plan — the same amount 540 charter schools are splitting this year. The House wants to hike the funding to $100 million.

Charter school critics might try to make hay out of two other figures. The Senate has proposed $75 million in capital funding for district-run public schools. The House has proposed spending $20 million.

But that would miss an important bit of context. School districts raise more than $2.3 billion a year from property taxes, and hundreds of millions more in sales taxes and impact fees that help fund school construction. By and large, that local revenue isn’t shared with charters.

At least for now. And that raises another important bit of context for these spending plans.

The House’s package of budget legislation also includes a bill that would steer some local property tax revenue to charter schools. It wouldn’t affect impact fees or local sales taxes.

It would guarantee charter schools receive an estimated $147.9 million next school year. The $100 million in charter school capital funding included in the House budget would defray that amount, meaning districts would have to share a total of $47.9 million with their charter schools statewide.

The Senate has its own bill that would steer district money to charters, but that legislation has stalled. It is not on the Appropriations Committee’s agenda today.

Lawmakers have until May 5 to reconcile their competing spending plans.

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