Published: Jul 26, 2011 4:05 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 26, 2011 2:29 AM EDT

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. -- Southwest Florida school districts, already hit hard by budget cuts, are learning they won't be getting extra help from the state when it comes to school maintenance and upkeep.

State lawmakers chose to dole out about $77 million this fiscal year for capital improvements in Florida schools and universities.

The majority of that money, roughly $55 million, will go to charter schools.

The percentage headed for public school districts is zero.

"It was disbelief. I actually went downstairs to our finance officer and asked him to look it up. Just to be sure," says Charlotte Schools Superintendent Douglas Whittaker, when he heard about the plan.

Whittaker says the district has traditionally received $3 million from the state for school construction and upkeep. He wonders why public schools were completely cut out of the equation this year.

"It raises the question -- What is that message? Why would they do that?" Whittaker says.

Lawmakers who supported the move say the answer is simple -- public schools don't need the money.

Whittaker says while the funding loss for Charlotte County schools is a small percentage of the district's overall budget, it comes amid already deep funding cuts.

He says the district sliced about $20 million from the budget this year, so the extra money could have been used.

"Every little bit helps when you're in a recession," he says.

Lee County Schools are also getting hit by the cuts, losing an expected $5 million.

The district says that won't affect any of its planned projects at this time, but it does add the capital improvement funds are just as good for public schools as they are for charters.