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Conversation starters on charters to come to Senate Education committee



There's been much talk in Tallahassee about the future of Florida charter schools during the legislative session, and the discussion is about to get more provocative.

Using substitutes for already filed bills, the Senate Education Committee on Monday will promote some ideas that are bound to capture attention. They don't deal with construction funding sources and shared spaces as much as some of the nuts and bolts of the way charters operate, and just who gets to benefit from the experimental nature of the less-burdened-by-red-tape model.

First, the committee will tackle the issue of charter school accountability, no small matter in the face of stories about charter schools closing mid year and, in one notable case, funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to employees rather than education as it closed.

The proposed committee substitute for SB 1282 would, among other things, ban charter schools under corrective action plans from opening new schools. It also would prohibit closing charter schools from spending any more than $35,000 without the explicit permission of the charter sponsor. The bill would require applicants to prove they are financially able to operate a successful charter school, forbid a charter from hiring a management company of which the governing body is a unit, and require the Department of Education to create a standard contract for all charter schools that cannot be amended.

The proposed committee substitute for SB 1390, meanwhile, would extend to school districts the ability to establish their own innovative charter schools, freed from the statutory restrictions just like charters. The details of innovative include such concepts as integrated technology, multiple modes of learning and personalized learning plans for students. The schools would operate essentially independently of their districts, and if they are successful, districts could allow more than one. From the bill:

"The Legislature finds that Florida is already a leader in education accountability and innovation and that this state should take such innovation to another level by replacing an outdated, homogenized model with a vibrant, rigorous model that allows students to thrive and be prepared to meet the economic and political challenges of the 21st century. The public schools in this state should be the education incubators that disrupt the old status quo."

These proposals seek to streamline the conversation about charters, which had multiple bills filed about them, bringing several ideas under a couple of individual bills. The parent trigger, which also involves charters, remains separate from these less politically driven measures, as does a proposal relating to the use of vacant school and other government buildings (which is expected to be attached to a bill by Sen. Alan Hays later in the week).

Take a look at the proposals in the committee packet, and then weigh in with your thoughts about the direction the Senate is looking relating to charter schools.

[Last modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 12:53pm]


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