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Charter school bill wins approval of House Budget Committee

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a sweeping charter school bill that would, among other things, require traditional public schools to share empty classroom space with charter schools.

The bill from Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale, would also require the state Department of Education to adopt a model charter school contract that could not be amended by the school or the district. 

The debate over charter-school funding is expected to be among the most contentious of the legislative session. Like other public schools, charter schools receive taxpayer dollars for things like teacher salaries and educational materials. But they do not receive money for construction and maintenance. 

Moraitis said his proposal would ease the financial burden on charter schools.

The Moraitis bill also includes several provisions meant to hold charter schools more accountable for their finances and academic performance. For example, it would prevent employees of the charter school or the charter management organization from serving on the school's governing board. Employee spouses would also be unable to serve on the board.

Still, representatives from several school districts and the Florida Association of School Administrators spoke out against the bill.

Not surprisingly, the budget committee approved the bill along party lines.

Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, called the proposal a "giveaway" to private education companies.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, blasted the Democrats for being "parochial."

"It bothers me that we still have that bias [against charter schools] when we have seen so much success," Baxley said.