Under the guise of school choice, the Florida House is pushing ahead with three bad bills that would benefit charter schools and yet again damage traditional public schools. The priorities are upside-down, and the Senate should stick up for local control and a fairer distribution of tax money to public education.
The first example of top-down mismanagement is HB 873, which would allow the state to limit how much local school districts could spend on capital costs even if they use money approved by their local taxpayers, such as a sales tax. Using cherry-picked numbers and questionable interpretations, House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican with close financial and family ties to the charter school industry, claims school districts have “glaringly and grossly” overspent on construction in the past decade. Pasco County, correctly, pushed back hard. “At the risk of sounding combative … we have gone to great lengths to be very conservative with construction of our schools,” said Pasco school superintendent Kurt Browning. Pasco officials point out that the House data sheet neglects projects that came in under budget and misconstrues per-pupil costs for such facilities as automotive labs, which require a great deal of floor space for a relatively small number of students.