PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — A funding fight worth millions of your tax dollars is drawing strong reactions between the Palm Beach County School District and charter schools.
Last November, voters in Palm Beach County approved a property tax increase to give teachers a raise and improve security, but the Florida Legislature voted Thursday night to force school districts to share that extra money with charter schools.
“It’s hypocritical and it’s blindly transparent that this is about getting money they were not entitled to,” said Justin Katz, president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association.
Charter schools disagree.
“It was heartbreaking when the district does not include us, my students in my school felt very much discriminated,” said Renatta Espinoza, the principal, and founder of The Academy of Positive Learning in Lake Worth.
In November, the referendum voted on by Palm Beach County residents passed with more than 72-percent of the vote. The county’s 49 charter schools would not see any of the money generated from that referendum.
“Right off the bat the implications are that the voters are not going to get what they voted for,” Katz said.
The Academy for Positive Learning and Palm Beach Maritime Academy sued the district for a cut of the $200 million that is expected to be raised.
On Friday, the district’s chief financial officer, Michael Burke, released the following statement:
“The Florida House of Representatives recently passed HB 7123. Such a move by the Legislature, aimed at overriding the will of Palm Beach County voters, is alarming. The ballot language was explicitly clear on this issue and the will of more than 72% of Palm Beach County voters is not being honored by elected officials.”
The school district also says now it will be forced to cut $22 million from the 2019-2020 budget. The district also sent out a call to action letter Friday to parents encouraging them to fight this and contact their Senator.
Espinoza is now thrilled the House voted to share the referendum money with charters.
“It’s sad that these teachers that are in the public school believing that we are going to take their money away, we don’t, it should be equal,” Espinoza said.
The bill now heads to the Senate.