Saturday, July 21, 2018

Schools of Hope moves forward to allow charters near struggling district schools

The Florida Board of Education unanimously approved a rule on Wednesday opening the door for private nonprofits to apply to receive millions in state funding to operate charter schools near low-performing public schools, called "Schools of Hope."

The rule establishes a process for a nonprofit group to become an operator of the charter schools.

The "Schools of Hope" program was passed last year as part of the controversial school choice mega-bill HB7069, which several school districts are challenging in court.

The board also voted to grant an additional $2,000 per student to 14 struggling district schools through the "Schools of Hope" program, adding to the 11 that were already selected in November. Mildred Helmes Elementary in Largo, Midtown Academy in St. Petersburg, as well as Chamberlain High School and Robles Elementary in Tampa were among the recipients.

During the meeting, a teacher from Gadsden County told the board that she was concerned about charter schools poaching teachers away from public schools with the promise of higher salaries.

"If you pay teachers well you won't need all of these Schools of Hope," said Judith Mandela, who teaches middle school math and is the vice president of her local teacher's union. "A teacher left my district yesterday solely because his salary was extremely low."

Commissioner Pam Stewart said after the meeting that local districts have the power to set their own teacher salaries to be competitive with charter schools and that state board is against a statewide minimum because of the diverse standards of living in Florida.

"It is in statute to provide differentiated pay so those districts with low-performing schools can in fact offer teachers more money for serving in those lower-performing schools it's a great way to actually lure teachers," she said.

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