Lee County Schools: growing pains help fuel lawsuit

LCSD opens new school year looking to future
Posted at 7:52 AM, Aug 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-07 07:52:23-04

The largest school district in Southwest Florida is growing. Again.

Every one of the last several years, Lee County Schools have added about 1,600 new students. The 2017-2018 school year is no different, but what will be different, is the amount of state funding.

A new state law is shifting some of your property tax money away from public schools, and sending it to charter schools. 

"The house bill 7069 literally takes $9 million out of limited capital and moves it over to corporations that fund charter schools," Dr. Gregory Adkins, LCSD Superintendent, says. 

Dr. Adkins says that $9 million loss comes at a bad time for the district. In addition to the two new schools being built right now, he says six more will have to be built in the next five years to keep up with growing enrollment.
"So to avoid having to put kids in portables, we need to build schools," Dr. Adkins says. "Building schools requires capital resources."
Without that money, he says the district will be forced to borrow.
"Unfortunately, when you borrow money, you're having to pay interest," Dr. Adkins says. "You're having to put a burden on taxpayers into the future."
Which is why Lee County has joined a lawsuit, with other school districts in the state, to challenge the new law.
More students and schools, mean more teachers. And the news is more positive here. Unlike two years ago, when the district faced a major teacher shortage to begin the year, this year Dr. Adkins says the outlook is good.
"We have just about every vacancy filled," he says. "I think we'll be very close by the start of the school year."
The 95,000 students in Lee County will head back to class Thursday, August 10.