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 Six of those are no longer active.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. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa


    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.