Florida’s preliminary House and Senate budgets are out. As expected, there are discrepancies in both. These are “bargaining chips” politicians use down the line when both documents must match. Once again, charter proponents such as Rep. Erik Fresen, are trying to swipe funds meant to maintain and build publicly owned schools and hand them over to private for-profit charter operators.
Here’s the breakdown. The House budgeted $90 million for 650 charter schools, that’s $139,461 per school. Compare that to $50 million for 4,279 public schools, that’s $11,684 per school. The Senate budget allocates zero to charters and $50 million to public schools, setting up an ideal horse trading scenario.
There’s so much wrong with this picture. Rep. Erik Fresen and his colleagues have been pushing to allocate charters unfair portions of capital funds for years. Since 2011, charters have received $326 million in building and maintenance funds while public schools received $109 million.
Much has been made about Fresen’s family ties to the corporate charter school colossus Academica. Not much has been made about the fact that Fresen works for the architectural firm Civica, whose portfolio confirms a large niche market designing charter schools.
Let’s be real. Charters are public schools in name only; everything else about them is private and profit-driven. Taxpayers will never recover funds spent to buy, build and improve charter facilities. Florida politicians support unlimited charter growth to the detriment of district schools. The House budget numbers tell the tale.
In order to justify giving charter schools disproportionately more money than district schools politicians like Fresen must use demeaning terms to insinuate doubt. As a recent Tampa Bay Times article illustrates:
Setting the tone for an adversarial debate this session, Florida House Republican leaders want to rein in what they call a “disturbing pattern” of school districts “glaringly and grossly” exceeding a state-imposed limit for spending on school construction projects.
Citing annual data that districts report to the state, House education budget Chairman Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, said public schools have spent more than $1.2 billion over the last nine years in excess of a legal cap that dictates how much in state money schools can spend “per student station,” or the space required for each individual student.
In the same article Fresen continued to overstate his case:
Referencing funding requests from public school representatives, Fresen urged House members last week to analyze how capital dollars are being spent and to not take school officials’ pleas for more money “hook, line and sinker.” He indicated — citing his findings — that schools should make better spending choices, rather than asking for more money.
There’s a reason politicians have spent nearly two decades shaming public education. It seems that they think if they create enough chaos they can justify anything – even enriching the family business.