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Politics / Issues

PolitiFact Florida On Charter Vs. Traditional School Funding; Cruz-Rubio Univision Spat

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Do traditional public schools get more money for construction and maintenance of facilities than charter schools? And just what did Marco Rubio say - in Spanish - to a Spanish-language TV network about what he'd do about a controversial immigration program? Find out as WUSF's Steve Newborn talks with Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

 

For years, there's been a debate about how many taxpayer dollars should be funneled away from traditional public schools to charter schools.

Charter schools are financed with taxpayer money but managed by private companies. Now, they were first proposed as a way to get kids out of low-performing public schools. But they've mushroomed in popularity.

So a bill that would mandate equal access to capital improvement funds by charter schools has been introduced in Tallahassee. One of the bill's backers is Representative Janet Adkins, a Republican from Fernandina Beach. She spoke during a recent meeting of the House Appropriations Committee.

"I think it's time that we recognize that there is great disparity, tremendous disparity, in the (capital) funding on a per-student basis between our traditional public schools and our charter public schools," she said.

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling on that:

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There are several sources for these capital dollars, but we’re going to look at the two most relevant sources: state Public Education Capital Outlay money and local school board levies.
Split access As charter schools grew more popular, the Legislature gave them more of the state capital money, known as PECO, than it gave traditional schools — which received nothing from that fund in some years. The totals have been in flux recently, but charter schools get vastly more PECO money than traditional schools on a per-student basis. Last year lawmakers gave $50 million to those 650 charter schools and $50 million to the other 3,600 traditional schools. That gives charter schools a bit more than $200 per student in PECO funding, while traditional schools get roughly $20 per student. The Legislature is currently debating how much to allocate for 2016-17. (As lawmakers head into budget negotiations, the House has proposed $90 million in capital funding for charter schools. The Senate has offered charters zero capital dollars. Both chambers would keep traditional schools’ capital outlay at $50 million.) But school boards have the power to add to their capital budgets in the form of levies. These levies can be up to 1.5 mills (that’s $1.50 per $1,000 in taxable property values) on an annual property tax bill. Money from those local levies, however, is largely off limits to charters. State statute allows districts to share this money with charter schools, but only five districts do. Fresen’s bill would require school districts to share a portion of this money with charters. Districts argue these local levies are needed to keep up with ever-growing communities. A common argument is that the districts have needed this money as the state has cut other sources of funding. It’s important to remember that not every district levies these taxes at the same rate or brings in the same amount. But there’s no denying it’s a huge pot of money to which charter schools don’t have ready access. According to the Florida Department of Revenue, these levies created an annual pool of about $2.3 billion statewide in 2015. Traditional schools also receive an additional $850 million or so in dedicated capital funding along with their PECO money, a House comparison says.

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Our ruling While charter schools do get a larger per-student share of one kind of state capital funding, traditional schools can bring in much more by taking advantage of school board levies and other sources that charters can’t access.   There are many fine details that can get lost in discussions about the subject. But we found that currently, traditional schools potentially can get six times the capital funding per pupil than charter schools can. The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. We rate it Mostly True.

Next up, the feud between presidential contenders Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio goes bi-lingual:

"Marco went on Univision, and in Spanish he promised that he would not on the first day in office rescind President Obama's illegal executive action," Cruz said during a recent GOP debate in South Carolina. Retorted Rubio: "Well, first of all, I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish."
 

-LI
 

Ted Cruz's command of Espanol aside, this was about something called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It gives temporary legal status to people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

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Univision interview A spokesman for Cruz pointed to an article on the conservative website Breitbart about Rubio’s April 2015 interview with Jorge Ramos of Univision. Ramos asked Rubio if he was elected president if he would keep DACA, the program launched under Obama. Breitbart wrote that "Rubio won’t reverse it himself if elected president" despite the fact that Rubio said that it would have to ultimately end. "I believe DACA is important," Rubio said, according to the initial English translation Breitbart used. "It can’t be terminated from one moment to the next, because there are already people benefiting from it. But yes, it is going to have to end. It can’t be the permanent policy of the United States, and I don’t think that’s what they’re asking either. I think everyone prefers immigration reform." The next day, Breitbart posted a second article based on the official Univision transcript and included comments by the Rubio campaign: "Well, DACA is going to have to end at some point. I wouldn’t undo it immediately. The reason is that there are already people who have that permission, who are working, who are studying, and I don’t think it would be fair to cancel it suddenly. But I do think it is going to have to end. And, God willing, it’s going to end because immigration reform is going to pass." In either translation, Rubio said DACA can’t be canceled suddenly but couldn’t be permanent policy. In an email interview with PolitiFact Florida, Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos pointed to part of the second Breitbart article that stated Rubio "discussed immigration policy, affirming his longstanding objection" to DACA and a similar program for their parents. Our ruling That’s a reference to Rubio’s statement in an April 2015 interview about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Cruz is cherry-picking a portion of Rubio’s interview. Rubio said that he wouldn’t undo the program immediately because it would be disruptive, but he said that it would have to end eventually and could not be permanent policy. Initially, Rubio said that he hoped it would end after an immigration bill passed but then in November said it would end even if Congress fails to act. Cruz has created a misleading impression about Rubio’s statement by omitting his full comments. We rate this claim Half True.