This afternoon the House Education committee adopted an amendment to cut charter school capital construction money down to the $5 million base initially created with Amendment 23 funds almost a decade ago. The Senate had approved $7.5 million in charter capital construction.
After introducing the amendment, Rep. Pommer, one of the sponsor's of the bill, SB 265 - School Finance, said that this level was still higher than the $2.5 million recommended by the Governor. Rep. Middleton pointed out that there were federal matching funds available for charter school capital construction if the state was above the $5 million level. Rep. Scanlon, another of the bill's sponsors said they'd researched and found out that if the Governor uses federal stimulus (ARRA) funds to increase the $5 million, the charter school capital construction match (also federal funds) is still available.
Rep. Debbie Benefield was very upset with there being any funds for charter school capital construction. She said, "This frustrates me! Elevating one group of public schools isn't right. Know clearly that I am not OK with what's being done here." Rep. Scanlon affirmed Benefield's sentiments.
Rep. Middleton clarified that charter schools don't have access to school district bond revenues like districts do and so their operating budget also includes money for capital needs. Further, this capital construction fund went for things like leases and is not used for new buildings like school district capital construction money is.
SB 256 passed out of committee unanimously and now goes to House Appropriations.