DeSantis budget cuts to impact Florida charter schools

Geoff Fox

school choiceFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis has vetoed just over $1.35 million in funding that would have gone to several charter schools around the state, including Academy at the Farm in Pasco County and Somerset Academy in Jefferson County.

The cuts were part of the $131 million in appropriations the governor excised from the $90.9 billion budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which begins Monday.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The veto disappointed Ray Polk, principal at Academy at the Farm. The K-8 school had requested $650,000 to fund infrastructure improvements and plans to expand to begin serving high school students in 2020-21.

Polk said a Tampa corporation would have matched up to $500,000 of the $2.5 million project, which includes modular classrooms. The school currently serves 588 students, but there is a waiting list of about 1,500.

“They’re building $85 million high schools. Compared to that, our request was just a drop in the bucket,” Polk said. “I’ll try again next year.”

DeSantis vetoed $200,000 that Somerset Academy had requested for improvements to an aging bus fleet that is non-compliant with state student transportation standards. All students in the district qualify for free- or reduced-price meals, and many families in the area just east of Tallahassee do not have their own transportation.

Somerset Academy made history in 2017 when the local school board unanimously voted to allow the South Florida-based charter operator to take over the district. Somerset Principal Cory Oliver could not be reached for comment.

Other vetoes included $500,000 to Lake Wales Charter Schools in Polk County, which was to be used for Hurricane Irma relief; and $75,000 to the Florida Charter Support Unit, a state program that helps guide new charter schools.

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