Bash the public schools (when reading this remember he is not disclosing that his relatives are in the Charter School Business and they employed him) that is what Erik Fresen did in the Miami Herald today:
TRASHING THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS OVER HIS PREFERRED CHARTER SCHOOLS
For years, the districts have been telling the Legislature this $3.2
billion wasn’t enough. They asked for the authority to raise property
taxes to pay for additional construction. But when the House looked into
the issue, we discovered something startling. By studying data taken
from reports filed by the school districts themselves, we learned the
they overspent on school construction to the tune of $1.2 billion in
excess of that generous statutory cap over nine years.
construction project that is less than the cap is still likely to have a
per-square-foot cost far greater than what anyone in the private sector
would pay for a similar construction project. Despite that, the vast
majority of school districts fail to follow the law.
In 2014, the
actual average cost on a per-student basis exceeded the cap by 11.3 in
elementary schools, 67.6 in middle schools, and 37 in high schools. Look
at the data, which includes the cost of every school construction
project over the last year.
Rather than acknowledge responsibility
and previous errors, the school districts employed an old politician’s
trick: When you’re wrong, attack. Overpriced school construction? Misuse
of taxpayer money? Not the issue. With their usual, unquestioning
devotees, teachers’ unions, legislators allied with them and newspapers
in lockstep behind them, the districts explained everything that has
happened is the fault of charter schools.
But that makes no sense.
has 2.7 million students enrolled in 4,270 public schools. There are
two kinds of public schools: county-run schools and charter schools.
Both are public, meaning they are free, open to all students and
supported by taxpayer dollars. In Florida, there are about six
county-run schools for every one charter school.
As stated before,
in 2015, Florida’s county-run school districts had access to $3.2
billion for capital projects. Charter schools had access to $50 million.
If you apply those totals over the number of students enrolled in the
schools, it translates to $200 per student in a charter school and
$1,300 per student in a county-run school; a more than 6-to-1 funding
advantage for county-run schools that was recently affirmed by
In other words, there is no rational argument to be
made that charter schools are taking capital money away from county-run
schools or that charter funding caused school districts to build
overpriced schools and additions. But those arguments do reflect the
For too long, school districts have become
comfortable overspending taxpayer money, to the benefit of contractors
and the detriment of the taxpayer. This has become the norm. Districts
spend as liberally as they want, and when they run out of money or have
obligated it all to debt service, they feed newspapers pictures of leaky
roofs and broken windows and ask the Legislature to raise taxes to give
them more taxpayer money.
That mindset is irresponsible and
indefensible. But all they have to do is trot out a favorite boogeyman
like “charter schools” or “vouchers” and watch as newspapers write
boilerplate stories about how Republicans are “attacking public
education.” They deflect attention from any accusation of abuse by
attacking the motives of their accusers.
But the facts speak for
themselves. The question now is what to do with those facts. Will school
districts and their enablers continue to blame others for their
failings, or will they step up, like several superintendents have and
take responsibility for these actions to Florida’s taxpayers? Based on
what I’ve seen, I think I know what the answer will be. However, this is
an instance when I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong.
State. Rep. Erik Fresen is chairman of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee.