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House panel kills controversial charter school proposal

A House panel on Tuesday killed a proposal that would require traditional public schools to share their facilities funds with charter schools.

The 7-7 vote came as a surprise to many in the room, given that the House has traditionally supported charter schools. Three Republicans on the House PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee, however, found enough fault with the proposed amendment to vote against it. 

Subcommittee Chairwoman Marti Coley, R-Marianna, was among the dissenting votes. "I still have unanswered questions," Coley said after the meeting.

Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, and Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, also voted against the amendment. Hager said lawmakers should discuss the overall problems with school facilities funding before creating new rules for charter schools.

(As expected, the Democrats voted no, too.)

The bill, HB 903, ultimately won approval from the subcommittee. As it stands, the bill would prohibit school districts from renewing their contracts with certain low-performing charter schools. It would also require charter schools to post information about their board members and management companies prominently on their websites.

The question of facilities funding for charter schools has been controversial in the House.

When HB 903 was initially filed, it required school districts to share with charter schools based on student enrollment. That language was removed before the bill made its first committee stop -- and added back (albeit in a slightly modified way) on Tuesday.

HB 903 now heads to the House Education Committee.

Its companion in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Wise, includes the sharing provision. That bill has met little resistance.

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