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Charter Expansion Provision Puts Florida Budget Bill At Risk of Veto

Florida's district superintendents and teachers' unions are urging that Republican Gov. Rick Scott veto a budget bill passed by the legislature that would expand the state's charter school sector and, despite a statewide surplus, result in only a small boost in K-12 spending, according to the Associated Press.  

The state's  $83 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2017-18 contains several new provisions, including one that requires districts to share locally-generated taxpayer revenue on charter schools' capital projects. 

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Under the bill, the state's K-12 system would receive a $20.4 billion next year, up from $20.2 billion. Officials have decried the small increase considering the state has a $3 billion surplus this year. 

Local superintendents argue that the state's expansive charter sector, which has more than 650 schools attended by 270,000 students, lacks controls, and that many charter schools have been shuttered in recent years because low test scores.  

"The details in this bill substantially hurt public schools, our students, teachers and our community," said Robert Runcie, the superintendent of 261,000-student Broward County Schools.  

Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of 346,000-student Miami-Dade Public Schools met with Scott on Monday to push him to veto the bill, which narrowly passed the state Senate on Monday (It passed the House earlier this month).

Scott has 15 days to veto the proposed budget overall and has the option of vetoing certain parts of it. 

Advocates for the state's charter sector say the bill has gotten a bad rap and that the expansion in the number of charter schools would broaden school choice options for parents whose children attend academically failing schools.   

Florida's budget surplus is unusual. The vast majority of states have not seen a revenue surplus and have instead decided to cut school spending or give only the minimally required increase in spending.

Several other states have set up task forces to redesign their school spending formulas. 

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