Gov. DeSantis signs measure to shift hundreds of millions in taxes to charter schools

charter schools
Other education legislation will create an experiment in year-round schooling at five districts starting in 2024-25.

Charter schools are going to tap into the pot of money that has so far been dedicated to capital costs at traditional public schools, according to legislation Gov. Ron DeSantis signed.

The bill (HB 1259) was one of a slew of bills the Governor signed Thursday and represents something of a sea change in school funding. It will mean hundreds of millions more in public funding will go toward the capital costs of schools that are part of the public system yet privately owned and operated.

Another education bill signed Thursday will be more of a piecemeal shift. Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams’ legislation (HB 891) will pilot year-round schooling at five school districts starting in 2024-25.

While the effort to combat what’s known as the “summer slide” in learning did not draw one “nay” along its path to becoming a law, the charter school funding issue drew fierce opposition from Democratic lawmakers. A handful from the blue team voted with the majority, however.

Up until the law takes effect July 1, charter schools have been getting their capital needs met via the state General Appropriations Act. The amount of that state funding is expected to be $213 million for the next school year.

This bill would mean that, over a five-year period, the source of charter schools’ capital funding would shift. Gradually, it would all come from local school districts’ tax revenues, particularly from those counties that levy discretionary taxes to pay for capital funding.

An analysis of the legislation determined that, given the current number of schools, charter school students and the available money, charter schools would be receiving $490 million from public school districts’ local revenues next year if the gradual phase-in were not in force.

The legislation’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jennifer Canady of Lakeland, said the bill is about fairness.

“Public charter school students have received significantly less capital outlay funding per student, averaging less than half as much as (traditional) public school students,” Canady said.

Supporters say the new law recognizes the bigger role charter schools have taken on and makes it so that the money follows the students.

But Democrats argued that the legislation gives private ventures public funding. And distributing money based on pupil enrollment ignores how public schools’ capital needs have always been funded according to building needs, not the number of students.

In addition, school buildings have also served another compelling public interest charter schools don’t: as hurricane shelters.

On the Senate floor, Democratic Sen. Rosalind Osgood, former Chairwoman of the Broward County School Board, panned the bill as a reckless use of precious tax dollars.

“We are literally taking taxpayers’ dollars and giving them to individuals to improve their own real estate property. Taxpayer funding is normally used for public buildings that are owned by all of us,” the Broward County Democrat said.

The analysis of Williams’ bill found that there was no new money needed for piloting year-round schooling. She said she filed the legislation inspired by the documented learning loss that happened during the pandemic and research showing that juvenile crime rates increase with the summer temperatures.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


4 comments

  • Cherry Wood

    May 12, 2023 at 7:14 am

    Year round school has failed in many places in the past. Where’s everyone’s memories? Why study History if no one’s going to learn from it. The solution to the problems begin at home.

    Year round school failed for many reasons. One was it interferes with family time. Employers would not give employees the vacation timing to take off work when the kids could go too. Parents had trouble getting help for the children due to different work schedules, just to name a couple.

    Somebody please go take a history course on these issues. Far as the kids behaviors, bring back “Capital Punishment”. We got it at school, we again got it worse when we got home.

    Thank you for reading.

  • Lex

    May 12, 2023 at 10:34 am

    They need to do something to integrate the Charter schools into the local school system. Charter schools are great when they fill a niche that the regular schools do not. More and more, public schools have started to have programs that mimic the function of charter schools with “Academies” inside some of the schools for focus in a specific area. Usually, charter schools are less organized, they do not grab any particular economies of scale. If we could integrate them into the existing school system then they could potentially utilize the existing school districts administrative resources and potentially share buildings with public schools. But the current system allows for bad charter schools to stay in existence for much longer than necessary and can cripple smaller school districts by syphoning needed resources from the public system for a charter school that barely or does not function.

  • Solomon Miller

    May 12, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    Dumb DeSantis wants no Chinese doing business in Florida but will give them money for their schools

  • CHARLOTTE JONES

    May 12, 2023 at 11:55 pm

    I PAY TAXES SO MY CHILDREN SHOULD BE ABLE TO GO TO ANY SCHOOL OF MY CHOICE.TAKING THEM OUT OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS WAS THE BEST . PARENTS NEED TO BE PARENTS NOT FRIENDS IT ALL STARTS AT HOME.THE SCHOOL SHOULDN’T HAVE TO RAISE YOUR CHILD.

Comments are closed.


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