City Council candidate question of the week: Charter schools
Each week through the primary, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. This week’s question is: Should the city of Cape Coral subsidize its municipal charter school system? If so, for what should subsidies be provided, including revenue sources? If not, why not?
The city charter schools are a true asset to Cape Coral and need to be subsidized. My thoughts are the subsidies would not be direct cash payments from tax revenue. Instead, subsidies would be in-kind city services without billing the charter school for them, and a restructuring of lease payments for the city-owned school buildings. Also, as the buildings are city owned and are leased by the charter schools the city should complete needed building repairs and routine maintenance such as carpet replacement and parking lot sealcoating.
The charter schools are an asset to the City and I support them. They are one of the draws for people with young families to come here. We also do have fantastic public schools on the Cape as well, so we are in a good position there as well. I do support keeping the system afloat for the time being with a clear go forward plan to have them become self-sufficient. My understanding is that current council is making progress towards that end which is a positive sign. With planning I see there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The city needs to help till the lawsuit is over. Schools will get enough money from the state per student to operate. As a city we need to make sure that the schools are marketed well to keep full attendance.
Supporting our Charter schools which are a major draw for young families moving to cape Coral is imperative. Calling the current process subsidized is misleading. For clarity, tax dollars paid by Cape residents follow all county students(including charter school students). The tax money goes to the state and is returned to the school districts and Charter Schools. The city owns the property and buildings which are leased by the charter schools. The City plans to restructure the leases to conform to more of a normal lease which will lengthen the term and lower the outlay allowing the schools to be an even larger draw for our city.
Subsidizing the successful charter school system with in-kind services, like Human Resources, is important to continue so the elementary, middle and high school schools can operate efficiently. Restructuring the leases would put off the debt, but at some point down the road that debt will need to be paid. There is over $1 million in escrow waiting for the result of a state lawsuit filed against the Lee County school district and others, but without relying on that money, there is another funding source. The schools’ charter says no taxpayer money is to go towards funding without a referendum vote. I am in favor of taxpayers determining whether they want to pay into a very successful educational system that improves the quality of life of the community.
Education is the pathway to upward societal mobility. The freedom to choose excellence in providers is critical. The Cape Coral Charter system is a stellar asset meriting full support. Singular focus on subsidy impedes unbiased, fact-informed, analysis. Albeit the 2020 budget shows $568k in non-chargeback city services, the facts are:
* Building lease is for debt service totaling $61.2M causing the cash shortfall.
* Without the Charter lease, the city remains on the hook.
* Resale/reuse of the buildings at best offsets 15% of debt obligation.
* Lease restructure via extended term generates annual break-even cashflow with optimized long-term city recovery.
In light of current events, I would wait to see what the school situation is going to be like for the upcoming semester. With the second wave of COVID-19 on the rise it might be wise to seek alternative methods of education. The safety of the community is most important.
Louis C. Navarra
I have been impressed with the charter schools. They are a good alternative to public schools. I was a Lee School District teacher for 38 years. I know the state gave school boards the right to write charters to private schools. The public school systems were not pleased but the state legislature approved. Funding should come from the State and local school board. I would even ask for some of the revenue that the Lee School Board levied with a half cent local sales tax the previous year. As far as local revenue from the City it is be acceptable as long as the cost is shared. I am not familiar with the revenue used by the City but if I am elected to the commission, I will do an in depth analysis.
The charter schools are great for the city of Cape Coral, I do not believe the city needs to subsidize them, but work on solutions in order to keep them going through these tough times.
Jessica Cosden, Incumbent
The municipal charter schools are a huge success. I will not let them fail. To address revenue issues (felt statewide by both district and charter schools), the city should continue to provide services — like H.R., I.T., finance — to the schools; restructure the time frame of the building loan agreement; and add building maintenance to that agreement. With all these supports in place, I believe the schools will be self-sufficient. Importantly, the city Charter stipulates that the City cannot provide funds to the charter schools. If it ultimately came down to funding or failure, a change to the Charter would require a referendum, which I would absolutely support.
Patty L. Cummings
If we are to fund charter schools in Cape Coral, the only way I would agree to that is to have transparency on how the funds are spent. I would not give taxpayer money to any organization without oversight. Charter schools have been notorious for mismanagement of funds with no accountability. One would think the big foundations and venture capitalists who fund them would know where the money is going. I believe Cape Coral should follow the same funding guidelines that Washington is now proposing, and put our public schools first where there is accountability and transparency.
Dr. Derrick Donnell
The issue facing our charter schools is complex. The short answer is no. Our residents are taxed annually for the School District of Lee County. A subsidy provided to the charter schools would be classified as double taxation. However, our charter schools continue to achieve academic excellence. This is a major factor as to why our city continues to attract young families to the area. That being said, I am open to helping the students of our charter schools provided that assistance; A) Is assigned a specific time frame B) Includes specific annual objectives and C) Guarantees all funds will be reimbursed.
Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan, city-wide elections meaning all registered voters within the city may cast a ballot in each race.