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Cape Coral discusses bailing out its debt-imperiled charter schools

Charter schools in Southwest Florida are operating in the red and are now trying to find a way to get permanent funding.

The City of Cape Coral wants to continue to support the charter schools in its community, but that support won’t come from taxpayer dollars.

Cape Coral’s charter schools are open but running at a deficit.

“If everything stays the way it is today right now … their fund balance would actually be depleted by 2024,” Assistant City Manager Connie Barron said.

That leaves the city with two choices: Close schools, or bail them out.

Superintendent Jacquelin Collins of Oasis Charter Schools told us the money pit is the school’s lease.

“We only receive $1.5 million,” Collins explained. “Our lease is $3.2 million every year, so to pay that that, we had to take from our [Florida Education Finance Program] funding, which really is designated for students and instruction.”

The FEFP funding is the state’s way to guarantee there is adequate funding for each student. The funding comes from two sources: The state’s sales tax revenue and from local funds generated from property taxes.

Cape Coral City Council is on record wanting to help the city’s four charter schools by allocating $2 million a year starting in fiscal year 2022 and reducing the lease to $1.5 million a year. But nothing has been approved yet.

“By them helping us with this lease payment, we can put more money back to the students and instructing them and perfecting our curriculum,” Collins said.

Oasis Charter’s schools are consistently A-rated.

If the city doesn’t move forward with funding, Barron said School District of Lee County would take over the schools.

Reporter:Brea Hollingsworth
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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