More public funds for Broward charter schools? A new proposal would give millions.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel | By Lisa J. Huriash | November 15, 2022

School District officials said they will consider a proposal later Tuesday to give tax dollars to charter schools.

Broward School Board member Kevin Tynan made the proposal to consider using discretionary tax dollars — generally earmarked for construction, maintenance, technology such as tablets and software, and school buses — to help fund charter schools.

School district officials said an additional$19.5 million would be an equitable share based on tax dollars and enrollment figures if the District were to agree.The county’s charter schools are currently receiving a $27.8 million slice of the state’s Public Education Capital Outlay fund, according to District staff.

Charter schools use public money, but are run by private entities. In Broward County, while the number of students in public schools continues to decline each year, the number of families attending charter schools has gone up.

Tynan said about 19% of the county’s students attend charter schools, where minorities are the majority of the student population.

“We cannot exclude a growing number of students for equitable funding,” he said.

Board chairman Torey Alston said it’s an idea worth pursuing: “I want us to do something.”

Pembroke Pines City Manager Charles Dodge told board members this week that it was a fairness issue, because charter school parents pay property taxes, too.

The school district “should share,” said Dodge, whose city runs its own charter school system, saying he’s sought “this funding for decades.” There are two K-5 schools, two K-8 schools and the Academic Village, a 6-12 grade school and the charters have 6,000 students and another 5,000 on a waiting list. Pembroke Pines created its own charter schools in the late 1990s after the school district could not build enough schools to keep up with explosive growth.

The city filed a lawsuit in 2007 seeking to compel the Broward school district to give charter schools some of the money collected for school construction and maintenance. But a Broward Circuit Court judge ruled against Pembroke Pines in 2010, saying there was no entitlement. In 2017, state law changed, giving districts the option to share funds.

Dodge called it “sinful” the condition some public schools are in; but “we shouldn’t be responsible for how they manage their finances.”

Advocates for charter schools and private schools say it gives parents a choice about where their children attend school. Opponents say taxpayer assistance diverts needed dollars away from public school students.

“We’re not at a point where we can give up any money,” said Nathalie Lynch-Walsh, a Plantation parent and frequent critic of school district leadership. “We need every dollar.”

School Board member Lori Alhadeff said charter schools are “chipping away” at public schools. She said more money is needed to fund the public schools.

Agreed Broward County School Board member Sarah Leonardi, who said, “I cannot support giving more money away” when schools are in need of repairs.

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