- Jul 23, 2007
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- The good ole USA
If Florida allows school choice why does it penalize parents’ children for exercising that choice?
January 30th, 2012
In Sarasota County, Florida nearly 12% of parents have decided to send their children to a non-traditional public school or charter school. Many are asking why their children are not benefiting from their local tax contributions. Many, like me, have made the false assumption that their local tax effort followed their child or grandchild.
As a local taxpayer and the grandfather of two grandchildren Emma and Ethan in a non-traditional public school, I just learned that only because my son sends them to a non-traditional public school they do not get equal funding as do other public school students. Solely because my grandchildren attend a non-traditional public school, my grandchildren do not benefit from my “significant local tax contribution". By the way Sarasota County is a donor district and sends money back to Tallahassee to be redistributed to other, less property rich districts.
This begs the question: Why do my grandchildren deserve any less than my neighbor’s child or grandchild?
How are my grandchildren penalized because they a non-traditional public school? According to a School Board of Sarasota County handout dated August 16, 2011, 4,870 (11.86%) of all public school students attend a non-traditional public school. However, only 4.9% of all of the School District Capital Outlay Fund Revenues go to support county non-traditional schools. That equates to an annual shortfall of over $5.4 million. Think what that could mean to help build new classrooms, repair existing structures or have a gymnasium for the non-traditional students. What is worse is that the vast majority of districts in Florida give no capital outlay money to non-traditional schools.
My grandchildren are public school students, period. Just because they attend a non-traditional public school does not mean they do not deserve the exact same amount of funding as a child who attends a traditional public school.
In 2011 the Sarasota County School District received $7,948 per student. Amazingly only $6,662 was allocated by the district to non-traditional school students. That is a shortfall of $1,286 per child. For Emma and Ethan that equals $2,572 and for their school that means $726,590. That is the equivalent of 12 new teachers making $60,000 a year, or 19 teacher’s aides making $40,000 a year. This is money taken from them that will in the long term harm them, their school and the community.
Why discriminate against Emma and Ethan and the other 4,868 non-traditional students in Sarasota County?
This inequality is both unfair and immoral. It is unfair on the face of it. It is immoral because it keeps Emma and Ethan and all of their classmates from receiving an equal educational opportunity. That is the great tragedy and travesty in this funding system.
As the holder of a Doctorate of Education, Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and combat veteran with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam I hold dear the words of former U.S. Senator Edward Everett, who was the featured speaker at the dedication of the first National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1863, who said, “Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.”
I humbly ask our Florida legislators to do the right thing and let each child get an equal education by equally funding Emma and Ethan.