Broward School Board agrees to pay $108 million to local charter schools

The Broward School Board agreed on Tuesday to pay $108 million to local charter schools by 2027 — about $67 million of an original debt and about $41 million from interest accrued.

The payment plan fixes an issue that had gotten the Broward school district in trouble with state officials, but creates a new budgetary dilemma that could affect employees. The board decided to delay that conversation until next Tuesday.

The school district’s debt with charter schools, which are schools financed by taxpayers but managed by private entities, stems from a voter-approved referendum that the school district pushed in 2018.

FROM MARCH: Florida education officials say Broward Public Schools owe about $80M to charters

At the time, Broward County voters agreed to raise their property taxes over the next four years to increase compensation for teachers and other employees and improve school safety, among other initiatives. The school district used most of the money, and only shared about $4.6 million of the total $453.6 million generated with 21 charter schools with an enrollment of at least 900 students.

Last fall, some of the charter schools sued the district over the money, arguing a 2019 state law mandated the district to share the money with all charter schools. The Florida Department of Education interfered in late March and ordered the school district to settle the disagreement.

In April, the School Board approved a payment plan and on Tuesday, they green-lighted the details of that agreement. The $67 million will come from a referendum approved in 2022 and the interest will come from the district’s general fund. The $41 million in interest stems from a 12% interest compounded annually.

FROM APRIL: Broward Public Schools will pay debt with charter schools. But state will still monitor

Debra Hixon, the board’s vice chair, criticized the high interests.

“There’s no negotiation here,” she said. “We were forced to just take it on the chin.”

She and another board member, Allen Zeman, also raised concerns about what the budget impact would be on district employees like teachers because if referendum funds go toward the debt, there will be less for paying teachers, school security and resource officers and mental health counselors.

Superintendent Howard Hepburn said they would discuss those details at next Tuesday’s board workshop.