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Florida Law Requires Districts to Fund Charter Schools

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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB)--Despite strong opposition from school boards and superintendents across the state, a sweeping new education bill is now law in Florida.
 
The measure was pushed by State Rep. Richard Corcoran (R-House Speaker) and signed by Gov. Rick Scott. Before it became law, chairwoman of the Sarasota County School Board, Caroline Zucker, personally wrote to the Governor--asking him to veto the bill.
 
"I think the whole bill is out of whack with what needs to be happening for education," Zucker said.
 
The lengthy law calls for things like mandatory recess and additional teacher bonuses. But the provision that drew the most opposition was a call for districts to share millions of local taxpayer dollars with charter schools.
 
In total, the Associated Press reports Florida charter schools will receive more than $96 million during the 2017-2018 school year.
 
Last week, the Broward County School Board voted to sue over the measure, saying the new law is unconstitutional.
 
"They're not giving us enough money for us to be able to keep up with the rising cost," Zucker said.
 
As Florida's population booms, Zucker says building new schools is imperative. However, plans to purchase a $10 million property for a new school are now on hold for an additional year to accommodate this piece of legislation.
 
"I don't understand why Tallahassee won't allow us to do what we think is best for our community," Zucker said.
 
A large part of the law creates the "Schools of Hope" program which offers financial incentives to charter schools willing to take on students from failing public schools. It's a program proponents say could mean a big jump in educational opportunities for thousands of Florida students, specifically those living in low-income neighborhoods.
 
Manatee County School Board member John Colon says charter schools are public schools too and are entitled to taxpayer dollars.
 
"I think the charter schools are a good thing. I don't think that a student's zip code should determine their education," Colon said. "I think competition is good and I think it only makes our public schools stronger."
 
But Zucker says the law clearly prioritizes charter schools over public education.
 
"I think the ultimate goal is to eliminate public education as we know it today," Zucker said.