K-12 Public School Facility Funding Task Force’s Final Report

Today, St. Johns County School District Superintendent and task force member Dr. Joseph Joyner objected to and voted against the K-12 Public School Facility Funding Task Force’s Final Report as it failed to fulfill the task force’s mission, shifts the responsibility of funding charter school capital outlay needs to local school boards and places the district’s operating budget at risk, allows nearly unfettered access to capital outlay dollars to for-profit charter schools who are accredited, and allows for duplicative student stations.

The task force met via conference call today to vote on the final report, which includes a recommendation requiring school districts to provide annual compulsory charter school capital outlay funding to charter schools by levying up to an additional .25 mills against the ad valorem taxable value of the district or from any other authorized fund source, including operating funds, should the school board choose not to levy the additional millage. Dr. Joyner has issued the following statement with regard to this final report:

“I felt it imperative that the task force look outside just amending existing statutory language and explore all available and potential revenue sources in order to identify a stable and reliable state funding source to adequately fund capital requirements for both charter schools and traditional schools.  I do not believe we, as a task force, have fully fulfilled that overarching purpose.

The proposal as set forth by the task force appears to represent a change in policy, which shifts the responsibility of funding K-12 public school facilities and specifically, charter school facilities, from the State to local school boards.  The recommendation seems to place a priority on funding charter school capital outlay over traditional public schools and potentially hurts school districts if their boards choose not to levy the additional millage on their taxpayers, as they would have to instead come up with the funds out of their existing already limited operating resources.

As the superintendent of a rapidly growing school district that has lost access to more than $40 million in capital funds over the last five years, I am especially sensitive to the capital needs of Florida’s traditional public schools and place great emphasis on being a good steward of taxpayer dollars.  I could not support a recommendation that allows for charter school student stations to be built across the street from a school that has seats available, thus constructing duplicative space.  Moreover, the recommendation provides that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredited charter schools will be eligible for compulsory charter school capital outlay funds, regardless of fulfilling a need in the district.  In these difficult economic times, the taxpayers of St. Johns County have entrusted their school board to use their taxpayer dollars prudently and efficiently; this task force recommendation does not allow for this.”

Dr. Joyner was appointed by Senate President Mike Haridopolos to the task force as the “superintendent from a small to medium sized school district based on population.”  Factors the task force were to examine included, but were not limited to: charter school facility funding needs, existing funding and revenue sources available for fixed capital outlay needs of charter schools and schools operated by a school district, long-term debt for school facilities, class size requirements and the impacts of such requirements on facilities funding needs, and district facilities utilization.

The task force was required by law to complete its work and submit its recommendations by December 1, 2012, to the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, the chair of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, and the Executive Office of the Governor.