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Sales Surtax Citizen Oversight Committee

Updated: Jul 11, 2022

The chair of the education committee attended the sales surtax Citizen Oversight Committee meeting on June 15, 2022. This is her report:

This is what I said during the public comment period:

1. Can a school board member ask for an advisory opinion from the office of general counsel on this issue: Does our ballot language require that charter schools report to the citizen oversight committee? When I voted, I certainly thought that was what the ballot said, i.e. the citizen oversight committee has the authority to request information and the charter schools must give them the information so the committee can monitor the spending. 2. If the answer is yes, what action can you take to force the charter schools to report? Can you sue them with the charter schools being responsible for the legal fees if you win? 3. How will f.s. 1013.62(5) be enforced if we don’t even know the information? 4. I continue to hope that legislators in the next legislative session will strengthen f.s. 1013.62(5) . I hope they’ll at least require disclosure of related party leases and an evaluation if the lease is a good deal for the taxpayers. You need to ask for that information in hopes of future legislation. I hope you read Nate Monroe’s article.

After attending the meeting, I sent this follow up email to the committee chair:

After listening to the meeting today, I still have questions and I hope a committee member will ask the district staff these questions at the next meeting in September. 1. Did Mr. Poole say that if he was asked to give an advisory opinion on the issue of reporting by charter schools, he would err on the side of a reduced risk of being sued by a charter school rather than erring on the side of protecting the voter who thought the citizen oversight committee would monitor the spending of our sales surtax? 2. I continue to hope that your dashboard for charter schools will show this information for every charter school on ONE page

  • +Revenue received <==you can get that from the district because that's who is giving the charter schools the money

  • -Money spent <==indicate if the charter school refused to answer

  • =Unencumbered funds

3. I continue to hope you'll also have ONE page on the dashboard with each charter school listed letting us know how they spent the money. Perhaps have these column headings:

  • lease of facility with a related party

  • lease of facility not with a related party but a religious organization

  • lease of facility not falling under either of those two criteria

  • other leases with related parties

  • other leases not with related parties

  • automobiles or other transportation

  • purchase of a building that can be recouped by the school district if the charter school should close

  • purchase of equipment that can be recouped by the school district if the charter school should close

  • other

4. One committee member made the point that the committee can ask questions of the charter schools but the committee may not be able to force the charter school to answer. She said, in that case, put on the dashboard that the charter school "refused to answer." The public and the committee need to know. One committee member asked if all the charter schools were replying. If the dashboard were easy to read, no committee member would need to ask that question, much less the public. The dashboard for the district owned schools is excellent. We approved the referendum in November 2020 and the dashboard for the charter schools is a travesty: 5. Mr Poole seemed to indicate that he wasn't sure if the courts would interpret the citizen oversight committee as a wing of the "sponsor." He did mention that the committee probably has a right as does every other citizen to make a public records request. Charter schools must follow the same sunshine laws as the school district. 6. Regarding your Charter School Question template. You had two charter schools visit today. Unless I missed it, I don't think either one specifically answered question #3 regarding their budget or question #4 or #5. MYcroSchools answered #7 in great detail, but KIPP didn't answer it at all even with a follow up from Ms. Tookes. Do you think having charter schools coming to the committee is going to be productive for the committee? I think you should rethink that. Focus on getting the information on the dashboard for the public to see. 7. No one asked the KIPP representative if all four of those KIPP schools have been operating for two years. There is supposed to be a two year waiting period before a new charter school can get our sales surtax money. Did any of the 4 schools merge with an older school in order to escape the two year probationary period? 8. The district is spending money and time to do their reporting to the citizen oversight committee. The charter school rep said that the charter schools may be hesitant to report because they have to pay their management company for reports. Too bad you can't withhold our sales surtax money until they report. That would certainly motivate them. Can they use part of the sales surtax money for their payments to their management company for the information? Certainly if they are going to be able to use the money for bond fees, they should be able to spend it on other fees required due to this funding. It will be interesting to see how much those fees are and if they are to a for-profit management company.

Mr. Poole from the OGC mentioned that SB 758 beginning on line 272 further restricted what a "sponsor" can ask of a charter school. Here's that portion of SB 758:

  272         j. The sponsor may shall not impose additional reporting
  273  requirements on a charter school as long as the charter school
  274  has not been identified as having a deteriorating financial
  275  condition or financial emergency pursuant to s. 1002.345 without
  276  providing reasonable and specific justification in writing to
  277  the charter school.

Here are some excerpts from 1002.33 (5) BEFORE SB 758 takes effect--Only (5) j will be changed as indicated above and a few of the word "shall" will be changed: (b) Sponsor duties.

1.b. The sponsor shall monitor the revenues and expenditures of the charter school and perform the duties provided in s. 1002.345. j. The sponsor shall not impose additional reporting requirements on a charter school without providing reasonable and specific justification in writing to the charter school.

Mr. Poole also mentioned that 1002.33(9)(g) lists the reporting that is required of charter schools:

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