If voters approve a tax to fund local public schools, charters are entitled to a fair share.
That’s the upshot of a court ruling issued last week in Indian River County. Voters there approved an extra property tax to levy fund operational expenses for their schools in 2010. At the time, charter schools enrolled roughly five percent of public-school students in the county, so, according to TC Palm, the district allowed charter schools to receive five percent of the funding raised by the tax.
In the years since, charter schools have grown. They now enroll some 12 percent of students in the county. But they still receive the same 5 percent of funding from the discretionary property tax.
Local charter schools contended that distribution was unfair, and took the district to court.
Indian River Circuit Judge Paul Kanarek ruled the current funding split is “unsupported by the law.” Most state property taxes for school operations are redistributed through the Florida Education Finance Program, the main state funding stream for public schools. Districts can levy up to $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value beyond the amount that goes into the state formula, but Kanarek noted state law requires them to share that money proportionally with charters.
That same requirement didn’t exist for local property taxes that fund capital projects, though that will change under a law approved by Gov. Rick Scott. Districts aren’t necessarily required to share other revenue streams tied to capital projects, like impact fees and optional sales taxes.
The Indian River County School Board could still appeal the ruling. One board member, Shawn Frost, is also a charter school parent, and he’s made his opinions known.
— Shawn R. Frost (@StrategyShawn) June 13, 2017