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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Districts line up to fight proposed charter school rules

To some, it might seem like inside baseball.

A national charter school firm asks the state Department of Education for guidance on whether its Florida schools are being run as nonprofit organizations, as they must be under the law. The department proposes new rules to clarify the situation. The company says the changes are perfect -- just what it needs.

But sometimes, a little tweak in the regulations can wreak havoc.

As reported in today's St. Petersburg Times, school districts across Florida are lining up to oppose changes they say could open the floodgates to for-profit companies seeking to make money running publicly funded schools. Among those crying foul are officials in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Miami-Dade, Sarasota, Manatee, and St. Lucie counties.

Critics say Virginia-based Imagine Schools, which sought the changes, plunges its new charter schools into debt to the company, in many cases charging a 12 percent administrative fee and leasing buildings through its for-profit subsidiary, Schoolhouse Finance LLC. Case in point: the F-rated Imagine School at St. Petersburg, which owes the company around $1 million. (For its part, the company says it runs schools more effectively -- and for less money -- than public districts can do.)

The new state rules will be discussed Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Tallahassee. Those interested in listening can dial in to the conference call, or submit comments to the state Board of Education.

-- Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 11:01am]


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