Parents worry FL education overhaul will hurt students

- Despite weeks of protest from major education groups, Gov. Rick Scott approved a sweeping reform of the state's school system, potentially steering hundreds of millions of dollars to charter schools.

The bill he signed Thursday at a Catholic school in Orlando, with protestors outside, sets aside $140 million in tax money for charter schools to open near routinely low-performing public schools.

"The historic funding we have secured along with more choices for students will give every family in Florida a quality education no matter what zip code they live in," said Gov. Scott.

Districts say it's an assault on public education.

The Hillsborough superintendent says federal Title I funding - that had been in place for 52 years - would now have to be spread evenly to all lower-performing schools. No longer can local boards target the schools they feel are most-in-need.

"It literally will take dollars away from our most needy schools," said Superintendent Jeff Eakins. "[It] is really against the spirit of the federal law."

Next year's budget takes effect in July. Eakins asked the state education department for a year grace period.

"If they are expecting districts in two weeks, on July 1, to completely change what we have been doing 52 years, that's unreasonable."

Charter school groups hailed the signing, pointing out 55 percent of their schools are graded A or B, as opposed to 45 percent of traditional schools.

Wokemia Taylor of Tampa likes her daughter's charter school.

"My son is in Head Start," said Taylor. "Once he finishes that, I am going to transfer him over to charter as well."

But Breann Livingston is worried about what will happen to her son's lower performing school.

"You need school for your kids," said Livingston. "It would take from our kids. That's not good."

The Polk County school district released a statement saying words can not even express their disappointment. There is already talk of legal challenges, which the Hillsborough superintendent says he would support.

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