Lawmaker proposes giving state authority to approve charter schools
A proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that would give a state board the power to authorize charter schools statewide gained its first approval in a House committee on Wednesday.
The proposal from Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, is one of several bills moving in the Legislature this session that could shift oversight of charter schools from school districts to the state -- in part, as a reaction to local school boards that have tried to stop the proliferation of charter schools.
Charter schools are publicly funded but privately managed. There are more than 650 operating in Florida now.
Diaz's proposal (HJR 759) would direct the State Board of Education to set up a "statewide charter school authorizer to authorize, operate, control and supervise charter schools." There's no criteria listed for how members would be chosen to serve on the proposed authorizing board.
Diaz argued school districts would still have the ability to authorize charter schools themselves and this simply provides an alternative.
"We're not removing local control," Diaz said.
However, he acknowledged charter school operators would be able to choose whether to send their application to the state or to the local school district for approval -- which Democrats said would let operators pick the more favorable venue.
"It’s really kind of forum shopping. You get to pick who it is that's your judge," Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura, said. "I don’t think that’s appropriate."