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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida charter schools couldn't apply for uniform funds, leaders complain



If you thought it unusual that no charter schools applied for Florida's mandatory student uniform incentive funds this fall, don't believe it was because of a lack of effort.

Many charter schools sought the $10 per student funding, it turns out, but they weren't allowed to participate. Florida Legislature staff told the Department of Education that only charters in districts that adopt a standard K-8 student attire policy could qualify for the cash, a department official told the Gradebook.

That's despite the proviso budget language, which read, "Charter schools shall be eligible to participate."

Craig Butz, president of Charter School Leaders-Florida and principal of Pepin Academies, contends the bill wasn't implemented as lawmakers intended, and he wants the public to know it. He sent a letter to the Gradebook explaining that his school and others wanted to take part in the new program but could not. It reads:

"Pertaining to a recent story about charter schools not applying for Standard School Attire funding, the fact that no charter schools have applied for funding is not due to apathy or lack of need for this funding by charter schools in Florida, but an unfortunate glitch that occurred in this year's legislation.

"According to the Department of Education, only if a school district adopted a district-wide uniform policy could charter schools be eligible for the funds. Since Hillsborough County does not have a district-wide policy, we at Pepin Academies were unable to participate. We know this is an unfortunate situation the Legislature did not intend to create and will look to amend during next year's Session.

"Outreach to the DOE was made and we were told that charters could not apply directly. Since Hillsborough County did not opt to implement a district-wide policy and seek these funds, the 43 charters school in the district were unable to participate. It is our hope that the legislature will reconsider and will adjust this provision of the statute to allow charters to participate, as we do not believe that it is the intent of the legislature to shut charter schools out from this funding if their authorizing district does not apply.

"We know first-hand at our Charter Schools the positive effects from having standard student attire in place. We see it from many angles, including the reduction in school bullying and the uniform learning environment it creates. Standard student attire is essential to creating a positive environment for our students.

"Shutting charter schools out from this funding if their authorizing district does not apply for the funding is counter to the concept of autonomy for which we strive very hard.

"My Pepin Academies administrative team and I would like the Tampa Bay Times to make it clear in a follow-up story that charter schools could only apply through their authorizing district. Thus, helping readers to understand that we were not intentionally leaving money on the table, and also to shine a light on the unintended consequences in the legislation regarding charter schools having to rely on the district to apply first."

[Last modified: Friday, September 11, 2015 3:58pm]


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