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Broward County (Florida) district owes millions to charter schools, state says

March 21, 2024
The Florida Education Commissioner says the district should have provided funds from a 2018 referendum to charter schools in the county.

Florida education officials say the Broward County School District has "knowingly and willfully" refused to comply with state law related to sharing referendum dollars with charter schools and must pay millions by Dec. 31 or face sanctions.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz says the sanctions could include "withholding the transfer of state funds, discretionary grant funds, discretionary lottery funds or any other funds specified as eligible."

The district has been directed to document how it plans to comply prior to an April 17 meeting of the state Board of Education. 

About 30 charter schools sued the Broward district in October to try to collect revenues from a referendum the district passed in 2018 for teacher salaries, school security officers and mental health.

School board members approved a motion saying they'd work with charter schools to resolve the issue.

The dispute involves a 2018 referendum in which the district shared about $4.6 million with charter schools for teacher pay, school security and mental health. Charter schools have sued the district, arguing that they should have received $90 million, based on charter school enrollment, which is about 20% of all public students in Broward County.

The law in 2018 didn't specifically address the issue of whether districts must share referendum money with charter schools. But the law was changed in 2019 to require sharing. Several courts ruled in favor of charter schools in other districts, including Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, that sued for proportional funding of 2018 referendum dollars.

Diaz says that those court decisions clarify how the district should have interpreted the law in 2018.

The district started fully sharing with charter schools when voters renewed the referendum in 2022.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy has been writing about education for American School & University since 1999. He also has reported on schools and other topics for The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Times and City News Bureau of Chicago. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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