The Florida legislature is debating a Republican proposal that would increase accountability for charters while making it easier to open new ones. The proposal, pushed by conservative Republicans, cleared a subcommittee on choice and innovation in the House. The state has more than 600 charters. It is a haven for flim-flam operators because of low accountability, lack of transparency or oversight. Florida charters are rife with conflicts of interest.
“The proposal…aims to weed out “bad actors” by requiring charter schools to disclose their finances on a monthly basis and to provide quality learning for their students. Any charter school that receives two consecutive “F” grades would be “automatically terminated.”
“The measure also would create the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation to help charter school operators submit good applications to school districts and to better navigate the approval process.
“New this go-around: The proposal would establish a “High Impact Charter Network” to encourage charter schools to set up in “critical needs areas,” or those where traditional public schools have received school grades of “D” or “F” in four of the past five years. The bill includes a financial incentive to do so by automatically waiving a 5 percent administrative fee — roughly $87,000 for 250 students — that charter schools typically pay school districts.
“Another new provision would allow “high-performing” charter schools an easier way to replicate their model anywhere else in Florida. Instead of submitting their applications to local school districts, school operators could get them vetted by the new state-level institute instead.
“It would create opportunities to allow high-performing charter schools in other parts of the state. We want to make sure we encourage that as much as we can,” said Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, who is again heading up the proposal for the 2016 session.
“Charter contracts would still have to be negotiated by local school boards, but Democrats worry diverting applications to the institute might take away districts’ local control.
“Republicans countered that approving a charter school application isn’t a subjective decision — either the applicant’s proposal complies with state standards, or it doesn’t — and they want to start penalizing school districts that reject new charter schools for “arbitrary” reasons, such as simply not wanting more in their districts.
“You can’t just willy-nilly this approval because you think you don’t need anymore schools,” said Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, the committee chairman.
“Under the committee bill, the administrative fee owed to school districts would be waived for any operator whose charter school application is denied by the district but approved on appeal.
“The bill is troubling to me,” Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, said. “I believe it takes money away from traditional public schools. … We’re trying to solve a cash-flow problem for charter schools while ignoring traditional schools.”