The readers’ forum

Charter schools put unfair pressure on public-school construction funding

 

In the past week, The Herald has published two stories regarding the Pembroke Pines Charter school system’s attempt to relieve its financial pressure by requesting a portion of the Broward County Public Schools’ (BCPS) local capital dollars.

As PTA president for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), I understand the burden all our South Florida public schools suffer due to increased costs of operation and the dismal level of education funding coming from Tallahassee.

I can’t speak to the specifics of BCPS, but I can tell you in Miami-Dade, the district isn’t hoarding any money that should be going to charters.

Not even close.

The district tells me that over 75 percent of the 2013-14 dollars generated by the 1.5 capital mills will be dedicated to debt service, leaving available only $240 per student for maintenance and capital needs of a school.

Charter schools, however, have been the sole recipients in the past few years from the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds.

In 2013-14, charter schools are supposed to get $330 per student from that pot! That’s $90 more than the student in our traditional public schools.

I’m told that if the state’s charter schools are allocated a share of the capital millage instead of the PECO funds, then their amount per student would skyrocket to over $845 per child. Meanwhile, M-DCPS children’s share would shrink to less than $100. A gross inequity! How could we do that to our children?

While the city of Pembroke Pines is to be applauded for being one of the few charter systems in Florida that cares more about students and teachers than profit it can funnel to for-profit management companies, what city officials are asking for would certainly cripple the ability of M-DCPS to maintain land and buildings.

Those are properties they hold as custodians for our citizens — the schools in which over 300,000 of our children receive a world-class education every day.

Sharon Graham Watson, president, Miami-Dade County Council PTA, Coral Gables

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