Charter Schools Seeking Equal Funding; County School Districts Don't Always Balance Sharing, Critics Say

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL, The Times-Union

Charter schools and their advocates around the state are pushing for equal funding, saying county school systems should not hold back any money from the non-traditional public schools.

In general, public schools receive money from the state for both operating expenses and building projects. Some counties also raise money through local sales taxes or bond issues. Florida has more than 200 charter schools, and some proponents of charter schools say there are school systems that share and those that don't.

Mark Griffin, board chairman of the charter school Wayman Academy of the Arts in Jacksonville, said many charter schools do not receive enough funding for building projects and are forced to use operating budgets to cover the cost of acquiring and maintaining property.

"In our case, our charter school just moved to a new location and we didn't get any additional capital dollars to improve our facilities," said Griffin, pastor of the school's sponsor, Wayman Chapel A.M.E. Church.

The school recently moved into an old Westside church building at a cost of about $3 million. School administrators have had to carefully manage the operating budget to make sure there is enough money to pay for renovations and the mortgage, Griffin said.

The state sets aside about $28 million for charter school building projects and renovations, but that figure has not grown to meet the demand of an increasing number of schools, Griffin said. He said the Legislature should set aside more money for charter schools or allow charter schools to have some of the money given to school districts for capital projects.

Robert Haag, president of the Florida Consortium of Charter Schools, said much of the problem lies with school systems, which have different opinions of how much money they should share with charter schools.

He said one school district held back the state funding for charter school capital projects until outsiders got involved, and another did not give its charter schools money the state sent for implementation of the class size reduction amendment. …