July 2, 2017
Letter to the Editor
by Lynn Norman-Teck, charter school parent & Executive Director of the Florida Charter School Alliance
On July 1, a new state law went into effect in Florida that embraces equity for all public school students and parents. The new law does away with a funding system that divided students into the have and have-nots. For two decades, public charter schools have been providing quality K-12 education programs throughout the state. For twenty years, students attending a charter schools received less per-pupil funding than students attending district-run schools. According to a TaxWatch Report (2012), “The absence of equitable local funding for both operational and capital purposes creates a significant financial disadvantage for Florida charter schools. Charter schools may receive just 68% to 71% of what districts receive per student.” In 2014-15, school districts received more than $2 billion in capital funding from various sources including Public Education Capital Outlay/PECO, and local mileage.” Eligible charter schools and the kids they serve across the state shared $75 million.
The new law included in HB7069 aims to reverse this travesty, ensure that all students are treated equitably, and that education and school facility funding follows the child. The tax dollars collected through local mileage does not belong to school districts or school boards. Those tax dollars – earmarked for school facilities – belong to students.
Public charter schools – schools of choice – give all families the option to choose a school that best fits their child’s needs. More importantly, charter schools must adhere to strict state and local performance and financial accountability standards to remain open. Yet this is not enough for school choice critics. They oppose anything charter, and are upset that parental choice and charter schools have expanded, and ushered in legislative support for equitable funding for all public school students.
Some people believe my children are worth less because they attend a charter school. They claim charter schools benefit “for profit companies” but the truth is charter schools bring quality and hope to many communities and are a vital part of our state’s public system of education. Choice critics want to keep the status quo – and continue to under-fund some students and rob parents who contribute to local mileage.
Failing to distribute local mileage funds to all public school students was wrong and forced the state to treat school choice families as second-class citizens. I belong to one of those second-class families. I’m a charter school parent, and I am thrilled that lawmakers and Governor Scott took bold steps to correct this wrong.