The roll-out of Tony Bennett’s FLDOE budget included capital outlay for charter schools, but none for public schools. Consider this bit of nuance in Jason Shultz’ Palm Beach Post story which the FLDOE uses to justify their position :
The state’s budget request reflects the Board of Education’s priorities to assist charter schools, said Pam Stewart, chancellor of public schools for the state Department of Education. Stewart also pointed out that individual school districts can levy local individual property taxes of $1.50 for every $1,000 of taxable value to raise money for their local capital needs.
Districts statewide raised about $2 billion from local property taxes for their capital improvements last year and received another $401 million in sales tax revenues that could be used for capital improvements, said Tiffany Cowie, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.
“Unlike public school districts, charter schools are not taxing authorities and may not levy taxes,” Cowie said.
Last year charter schools tried unsuccessfully to get a state bill (SB 1852) passed to require districts to give charter schools some of that local property tax revenue as well.
Florida’s local school boards have the power to raise tax millage rates. As governor, Jeb Bush used his bully pulpit to pressure the local boards to do just that. It’s suicidal to do so unilaterally and most boards put a referendum on the ballot. Voters almost never vote to raise their own taxes, no matter how small or for whatever reason. Stewart, who is seeking to become superintendent of Manatee schools, understands this Catch-22 dynamic. To essentially blame local boards for not raising taxes to adjust to their charter school priorities is an arrogant leap.