Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Proposal to allow a state charter school authorizer advances in Florida Constitution Revision Commission

The last time Florida lawmakers tried to set up an independent charter school authorizer, an appellate court struck it down as facially unconstitutional.

Now, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission wants to revise the language to allow future Legislatures to take such a step if they see fit.

At issue is a single word in Article IX — "within." Voters decided in 1968 that local school boards would operate, control and supervise all free public schools "within" their school districts.

Commission member Erika Donalds proposed changing the language so boards would have that oversight over all the schools "established by" the district. That would give the Legislature the power to set up alternative public schools outside the current model, similar to 34 other states.

Related coverage: Proposal calls for alternate charter school authorizer in Florida 

Patricia Levesque, who runs Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, encouraged her commission colleagues to consider the proposal an update of the constitution to take into account ideas that weren't envisioned 50 years ago. She listed charter schools, private school choice and dual enrollment as examples.

"We have no idea what could be done in the future," Levesque said. "Give [lawmakers] the authority to be innovative."

Others took up the cause, as well, suggesting the need to offer alternatives to establishing new schools than going through the school boards that might be hostile to the ideas.

"This isn't working well everywhere, and every child deserves to have options in their community," said Judge John Stargel, who recently joined the commission.

One of the most outspoken opponents was Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. She said she strongly supports choice and charters, but contended the state already has established a strong, competitive public school system under existing rules.

She noted Florida has more charter schools than almost any other state, serving about 200,000 students. Applicants that are rejected by a school board can appeal to the state and win approval through that process, she added.

"Florida has been a leader," Stewart said.

Removing local control over the students, schools and tax dollars raised a concern for her and others, though.

"We risk giving this broad authority to the Legislature, not knowing what might happen," former state Sen.  Arthenia Joyner said. "This proposal goes too far, and risks destroying our public school system."

In the end, the commission agreed to send the item forward for revisions and final consideration. Commission member Frank Kruppenbacher, an Orlando attorney who advised Orange County schools, said he would push at that time to include wording that makes clear no set of public schools holds advantages over another because of its authorizer status.

Comments
The things School Board candidates say…. on the campaign trail in Hillsborough (Part I)

The things School Board candidates say…. on the campaign trail in Hillsborough (Part I)

They bashed the superintendent. They fretted about charter schools. One said the Hillsborough County School District should act like a carpet cleaning business when it comes to hiring teachers. Another blamed gender for the School Board's ongoing gru...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida stands alone as sole state without federally approved accountability plan

Florida stands alone as sole state without federally approved accountability plan

What to do?President Donald Trump's administration has in many ways held up Florida's education system as a model for the nation. It's hired many former Florida education officials to top jobs in its own education department.Yet Florida's propos...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Florida education news: Charter schools, test results, safety and more

Florida education news: Charter schools, test results, safety and more

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The 10-year renewal of a Hillsborough County charter alternative high school generates a pointed debate about the school's worth, as the League of Women Voters notes its poor graduation rate and school district officials lo...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Critics of charter schools point to low graduation rates

Critics of charter schools point to low graduation rates

The League of Women Voters is protesting the 10-year renewal of Seminole Heights Charter High School's contract on grounds that the organization spends nearly $200,000 in tax money to produce one high school graduate…But do they?Absolutely not,...
Published: 07/16/18
Pasco schools Citizens Academy seeks applications

Pasco schools Citizens Academy seeks applications

The Pasco County school district's new Citizens Academy is now a reality.It only needs participants.The district's inaugural class to learn about the ins and outs of its operations and activities will be 30 to 50 members large. They will attend seven...
Published: 07/16/18
Hillsborough County has more ‘persistently low performing’ schools than any other Florida district

Hillsborough County has more ‘persistently low performing’ schools than any other Florida district

The Hillsborough County school district has topped another state list it would prefer not to be on.It has 13 schools on Florida's newly released "persistently low performing" list, more than double the number of any other district.That's down from 20...
Published: 07/16/18
Florida education news: Addresses, ethics, security and more

Florida education news: Addresses, ethics, security and more

WHERE DO YOU LIVE? The Pasco County School Board will consider tightening rules for when it can remove students from schools over fraudulent registration forms.ETHICS: A Hillsborough County disability rights advocate files an ethics complai...
Published: 07/16/18
ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 8, 2018

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 8, 2018

Another week, another lawsuit. This time, it’s the League of Women Voters challenge to Amendment 8, a measure headed to the November ballot unless a judge stops it. The group contends the proposal is misleading because it aims to change charter...
Published: 07/14/18
Ethics complaint against Hillsborough School Board members

Ethics complaint against Hillsborough School Board members

NOTE: This post has been revised.A disability rights advocate in Tampa has filed a state ethics complaint against Hillsborough County School Board member Lynn Gray, based on reports that appeared in recent months in the La Gaceta newspaper.Karen Clay...
Published: 07/13/18
Updated: 07/16/18
Pasco school district looks to strengthen student address verification rules

Pasco school district looks to strengthen student address verification rules

Pasco County parents have demanded their school district amplify its efforts to make sure students are not lying about their addresses for more than two years. They've done so in hopes that drive might alleviate the need to change attendance zon...
Published: 07/13/18