In a letter published in the Gainesville Sun, Megan Lane, co-founder and co-director of Boulware Springs Charter School and a doctoral fellow at the University of Florida College of Education, urges the Alachua School District to do the right thing for all K-12 students.
September 15, 2016 – The Sun published a column by Alachua County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Sandy Hollinger on Sept. 11, urging residents to vote for the One Mill for Schools initiative in the upcoming election. The headline read, “One Mill benefits all students.” Before the column was published, I wrote a letter to Hollinger and the School Board regarding One Mill funding.
For the past eight years, the children of Alachua County traditional public schools have benefited from more than $80 million in One Mill revenues that have provided elementary art and music programs, guidance and media programs in kindergarten through 12th grade, middle and high school band and chorus programs, academic and career/tech magnet programs, and classroom technology. However, none of these benefits were offered to charter schools. Charter schools are public schools — they receive public funds to operate and are authorized and overseen by the School Board.
Hollinger responded to my letter on Sept. 13, stating that the School Board would not reconsider its decision to exclude charters from One Mill funds. State policy regarding this matter is extremely vague. The norm around the state is that most other districts that have a voted millage share this revenue with charters.
However, the School Board is acting within their legal authority given that the policy is vague, although there are currently cases being heard in other districts to clarify this legal authority (see Indian River County).
The issue at hand does not necessarily lie with the School Board as much as it does with state policy and local ballot language. The language on the One Mill ballot does not indicate that the money will not be shared with charters — it generally refers to the funds being used for “K-12 programs” and personnel.
As the co-founder and co-leader of a local charter school, I know that many of our parents and board members were under the assumption that the revenue would be shared as advertised, so that all public schools, including charters, would benefit. Charter schools enroll over 1,750 students in Alachua County — not an insignificant number.
My push is that voters are informed about how One Mill funds are spent. I want what is best for students and I know the funds provide beneficial services to students in Alachua County in general, even if not at our school.
I do not want to see the One Mill voted down. However, I do want voters to be informed and perhaps the potential loss of votes from charter advocates will help persuade the School Board to consider sharing the funds.
— Megan Lane co-founder and co-director of Boulware Springs Charter School and a doctoral fellow at the University of Florida College of Education.