Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida education board moves to weed out troubled charter school operators

TAMPA — The State Board of Education took steps Wednesday to prevent charter school applicants with poor past performance from opening new schools.

Saying the state should not "pass the trash" from one district to another, board members unanimously approved a rule to require applicants to disclose their past charter school affiliations for the most recent five years on their application forms.

"I just want to make sure that the school boards and the districts have a sense (of when) some guy starts a management company, shuts it down and starts another," said board member Michael Olenick, a lawyer who has worked with charter schools. "I want to flush that out. It's a huge problem."

The rule will make the process easier for school districts, which sometimes can miss background information when they review applications.

Recent reports by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and other media have uncovered charter schools run by people or organizations that shut down, sometimes mid year, and then resurfaced seeking to open another.

Nearly 300 charter schools in Florida have closed their doors because of financial, management or academic problems since they first were permitted in the 1990s. At the same time, the number of charters has grown. The Florida Department of Education listed 646 of them at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. Six of those are no longer active.

State Board member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey said that while parents deserve more school options, those choices should be good ones. Districts should have relevant information to help them evaluate whether to approve each charter application.

No board members disputed the need to change the state model application to request added background information, which already has been required for charter schools using management companies and for those seeking to replicate existing schools.

Rather, their biggest debate was whether to ask for five years of data rather than the recommended three.

"I watched the debacle of poor finances," he said. "This is the heart of it. If you don't have a good foundation for finances … you're to some degree leading districts in the wrong direction."

Adam Miller, executive director of the state office of parental choice, told the board that his office planned to create a searchable database, as well, to help districts find out the histories of their charter school aspirants, and whether they have the "capacity to open." It would apply to charter board members, as well as operators and management firms, he said.

"We want to provide additional transparency to districts," Miller said.

Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego thanked the board for altering the system, saying it would help districts "tremendously."

"Superintendents are supportive of having A-rated charter schools come into our districts," Grego said.

These provisions had appeared in bills during this year's legislative session, but they got pushed aside as lawmakers got caught up in budget battles. The board moved to enact the rule now so it can take effect for the next round of charter school applications this fall.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at

Florida education board moves to weed out troubled charter school operators 06/24/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 24, 2015 9:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays power their way to 5-1 win over Orioles before embarking on crucial road trip

    The Heater

    St. PETERSBURG — The Rays didn't get many hits in the early going Wednesday, but they got a couple that went a long way and that was enough to beat the Orioles, 5-1.

    Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) hugs catcher Jesus Sucre (45) after Souza's solo home run in the seventh inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. Man accused of sexually assaulting 5-year-old girl


    ZEPHYRHILLS — Pasco sheriff's deputies have charged a Zephyrhills man with sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl in his care.

    Brett Campbell [Photo Courtesy of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Florida GDP growth in first quarter 2017 ranks 21st among states, still outpacing U.S.

    Economic Development

    Florida's gross domestic product or GDP rose 1.4 percent in the first quarter, slightly faster than the nation's growth of 1.2 percent and placing Florida 21st among the states for growth rates, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

    Not too hot. Not too cold.

    These Jackson Square Townhomes began hitting the west Hillsborough County market late last year and continued to be sold into the first quarter of 2017. The real estate sector was the biggest driver of Florida's gross domestic product, which rose 1.4 percent in the first quartrer of 2017.  [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  4. Coming to Netflix in August: 'The Defenders,' 'Death Note' and more

    Krysten Ritter, Finn Jones, Charlie Cox and Mike Colter in Marvel's The Defenders.
  5. Report: $36 million worth of guns stolen in Florida in four years

    Public Safety

    An estimated $36 million worth of guns was stolen in Florida from 2012 to 2015, according to an analysis released this week by the Center for American Progress.

    Broken glass litters the floor of Tampa Arms Co. after thieves drove a pickup  through the front of the gun store and stole more than 40 weapons, including handguns and semiautomatic rifles. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]