INCREASED PER-STUDENT FUNDING & EXPANSION OF QUALITY CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE AMONG THE TOP PRIORITIES FOR FLORIDA’S CHARTER SCHOOL MOVEMENT THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Tallahassee, FL – January 4, 2016 – In preparation for the 2016 Florida legislative session, the Florida Charter School Alliance (FCSA) polled charter school leaders and parents across the state to gather feedback. Survey results were used to develop the FCSA’s legislative platform that will guide the organization’s advocacy efforts this legislative session, and throughout the year.
“Our legislative priorities include equitable student funding and advocating for a successful charter school’s ability to expand into high need or underserved areas,” said Lynn Norman-Teck, executive director, Florida Charter School Alliance. “Using the feedback we got from member schools, we were able to develop an action plan that addresses their needs and the wishes of the parents they serve.” Survey respondents overwhelmingly selected per-student funding and capital outlay as their top legislative issues; and more than 90 percent of parents said that students attending district-run and charter schools should receive equal education funding and those with a track-record of academic success should be automatically approved by their sponsor to expand.
The FCSA legislative priorities are:
Increase per-pupil funding
We support fair and equitable funding for all public school students in Florida and urge legislators to follow Governor Scott’s proposed $7,176 per pupil allocation. The per-pupil base allocation covers many expenses including textbooks, technology for the classroom, teacher salaries, and supplemental instruction.
Secure Capital Outlay
Charter schools receive an estimated $300 per student – that’s about 34% less than students attending a district-run school receive. Seventy-five percent of charter school leaders surveyed by FCSA said they would like at least $900 per student to meet their capital outlay needs. In 2014-15, districts received more than $2.4 billion for facilities funding/maintenance; charter schools received $75 million. Capital outlay is the only facilities funding charter schools receive, and available to a charter school that has been in operation for three years and has met other accountability requirements. Limited capital outlay funding forces charter schools to tap into their operations budget – taking funds away from essential in-class educational programs and technology. District schools get capital outlay dollars from the state, local millage dollars, and can use various options, including Certificates of Participation (COPS), to raise revenue to cover capital costs. Districts can also go to the voters for an added millage allocation for major construction, maintenance or operational projects.
Governor Scott’s budget proposal for 2016-17 recommends $75.2 million capital outlay for both district-run schools and charter schools. FCSA is urging legislators to fund charter school capital outlay at $100 million.
Guarantee timely distribution of education funds
FCSA supports the creation of legislation that would prohibit district / charter school sponsors from delaying allocation of state-approved per student funding to charter schools. In the past, a few districts have delayed per-pupil fund distribution based upon the timing of receipt of local funds. This practice threatens a charter school’s ability to operate effectively, and can have a devastating impact on small, independent charter schools.
Support for the Teachers Classroom Supply Assistance Program
For the past few years, public school teachers have received funds to help offset the cost of supplement classroom supplies they purchase. FCSA supports the continued funding of this valuable program.
FCSA also supports the development of fair and balanced charter school accountability measures, and efforts to help high-performing charter schools expand with limited restrictions in high-need or underserved areas.
Charter schools in Florida run the gamut of choice educational programs – ranging from urban to rural campuses, from programs specializing in exceptional students or drop-off prevention, to unique classical curriculum, and college-prep programs in high need areas. Yet all our member schools have a common thread – a steadfast commitment to raising the bar on public education and providing a quality education option to the children and communities they serve. More than 271,000 students are currently enrolled (with over 100,000 students on wait lists) in more than 640 public charter schools across Florida. These charter schools serve a greater percentage of minority students than their district-run counterparts, and many have made great academic strides. According to a Florida Department of Education report, charter schools outperformed district-run schools in 156 of 177 comparisons.
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Formed in 2010 by a group of educators, community leaders, and philantropists, the Florida Charter School Alliance is a non-profit member-driven organization whose mission is to improve student achievement, promote parental choice by advocating for and collaborating with high-quality public charter schools.
 Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools – https://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/pdf/Charter_Student_Achievement_2012.pdf