2020 Legislative Regular Session Update: A Win for Florida Charter Schools
For the fourth year in a row, Florida’s Regular Legislative Session was forced into overtime, but in the end, Florida charter schools came out with a win-win.
It is said that laws are like sausages – it is best not to see them being made.
And in this case, policy and budget differences between the two chambers forced an extension of Session past the scheduled 60 days. But in the end, the differences were resolved and the Legislature passed a $93.2 billion budget for the 2020/2021 fiscal year along with associated education policy.
Here are a few highlights that impact Florida’s public charter schools.
Legislative members went into the start of Session following the Governor’s call to spend nearly $1 billion for teacher salary increases and bonuses. Negotiations between the two chambers continued until the very last scheduled day of Session with the goal of trying to get to where the Governor wanted things to be. Lawmakers finally settled on a total of $500 million and agreed-upon language as to how school districts and charter schools must apply their share of the dollars, directing $400 million to increase minimum pay for all teachers and $100 million to raises for veteran teachers. They couldn’t, however, manage to get a bonus plan passed.
School districts and charter schools must use 80% of their share of the salary allocation to increase minimum base salary for all full-time classroom teachers and certified pre-kindergarten teachers to $47,500 or the maximum amount achievable based on the allocation. School districts and charter schools must use 20% of their share of the allocation to provide salary increases to full-time classroom teachers and certified prekindergarten teachers who did not receive an increase or who received an increase of less than 2% as a result of increasing the minimum base salary.
First the first time since the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School that occurred in February of 2018, the Legislature failed to pass major school safety policy. Legislation was introduced at the beginning of Session that would have implemented a number of recommendations from the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission but lawmakers just could not get it across the finish line before Session ended.
However, one school safety-related bill did manage to make it through. Lawmakers approved a measure that would mandate that all public schools implement a mobile panic alert system that would communicate with first responder agencies beginning in the 2020/2021 school year. The legislation also directs the Florida Department of Education to work through the procurement process to identify a single state-wide solution. However, school districts and charter schools would not be forced to use any particular solution recommended by the department if they choose a different vendor or have already installed systems on their own ahead of this policy going into effect.
Funding Florida Charter Schools
Lawmakers agreed to an education budget totaling close to $22.7 billion for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget funds $7,839.58 per student, an increase of $183.62 from current year per-student spending. Also included in the budget is an increase of $40 per student in the Base School Allocation which are the unrestricted dollars available to school districts and charter schools that can be used for general operations.
Lawmakers also approved its annual tax package that includes a measure that would require school districts to share discretionary sales surtax revenues with eligible charter schools. These funds come from voter-approved sales tax referendums and must be shared with charter schools based on their proportionate share of the total school district enrollment. These shared funds must be used for fixed capital expenditures at individual charter schools.
Even with the overhang of the spread of COVID-19, this Legislative Session ended up being very positive for charter schools. Teachers will get a pay raise. Students will be better protected. Schools will get more student and facilities funding. This is truly a win-win-win for Florida charter schools.
Since the company’s inception in 2007, Charter School Capital has been committed to the success of charter schools. We help schools access, leverage, and sustain the resources charter schools need to thrive, allowing them to focus on what matters most – educating students. Our depth of experience working with charter school leaders and our knowledge of how to address charter school financial and operational needs have allowed us to provide over $2 billion in support of 600 charter schools that have educated over 1,027,000 students across the country. For more information on how we can support your charter school, contact us. We’d love to work with you!