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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Charter expansion bill passes its first hurdle



The Senate PreK-12 Education Committee this afternoon unanimously recommended a bill to expand Florida's charter schools.

Senate Bill 1546 would, among other things, pave the way for "high-performing" charter companies to open schools in new counties, and assess financial penalties for districts that tried to oppose them. It would also allow colleges and universities to approve charters, with local districts approving the contracts.

Gov. Rick Scott has said that he's fully behind the idea of expanding charters, and supporters of the bill jumped on the bandwagon Wednesday following the committee hearing.

“This legislation will allow our best charter schools – those meeting high academic and sound financial thresholds – to serve more students," said Patricia Levesque, executive director of the education foundation run by former Gov. Jeb Bush, in a statement.

Sen. Bill Montford, the ranking Democrat on the committee, told the Republican sponsor John Thrasher that he was willing to work on improving the bill, which potentially interferes with local districts' authority under the Constitution to oversee public education within their boundaries.

"It just appears that we’re forcing school districts to accept a decision made by a university unilaterally," he said. "And that causes me some concern."

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 3:36pm]


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