Gov. Rick Scott wants public, charter schools treated equally

Advocates fear public schools will play second fiddle to charter schools

By Jake Stofan
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed the education funding portion of the budget and wants lawmakers to pump more cash into public schools.

The Legislature meets later this week, and public school advocates fear that even with the increase, public schools will be playing second fiddle to charter schools.

The Florida Education Association said the Scott is making personal calls to superintendents around the state, asking them to support the charter school bill. He is asking for a $215 million boost to public school funding, which works out to be an increase of about a  $100 per student.

Scott and his staff spent two weeks behind closed doors hammering out a deal with the House. Schools will get $215 million more, and Scott will get money for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.

Public school advocates also fear part of the deal calls for Scott to sign a massive expansion of charter schools, which he denies.

"If we're all singing 'Kumbaya' at a press conference, then some deal has been cut somewhere along the way, and I believe the students, the public school students, are the pawns in that game,” said FEA President Joanne McCall.

Scott said he wants traditional public and charters schools to be treated equally.

“My goal is: There's a pathway that all students in our state have a chance to get a great education. So I'm going to continue to review it,” Scott said.

The charter legislation would, for the first time, force public schools to share tax dollars for school construction and repair with charter schools.

The FEA said allowing it to become law would spell disaster for public schools.

"Charters were created, originally, to be a unique difference from the public schools, but now all they are are parallel systems of competing for the same dollars,” McCall said.

Scott has yet to get the charter expansion bill from lawmakers, and likely won’t until after they meet later this week to boost public school funding.

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