Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida lawmakers close to lifting barriers for charter schools

TALLAHASSEE — State lawmakers are poised to sign off on their second major piece of education legislation this session: a broad measure lifting barriers for charter schools.

The Florida Senate agreed on Thursday to make it easier to set up and expand charter schools, eroding school districts' power over charters, which are publicly funded but privately run.

The House is scheduled to vote on the proposal today and send it to Gov. Rick Scott, who has called the reforms a priority. They are also backed by former Gov. Jeb Bush's education foundation.

Scott has already signed a sweeping bill tying teacher pay, evaluations and contracts to students' performance on tests.

That controversial law prompted significantly more debate than the charter schools measure, which drew quieter opposition. State senators approved the bill in a 31-8 vote. Two Democrats, Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando and Sen. Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood, a former Broward County School Board member, broke party lines to favor the measure.

Sen. John Thrasher, the St. Augustine Republican who sponsored SB 1546, said its intent is to give more options to thousands of students on waiting lists for charter schools.

"This bill simply gives them an opportunity," Thrasher said.

Under the proposal, school districts would have to grant 15-year contracts to "high-performing" charter schools — schools that receive an "A" or "B" grade from the state for the past three years and are not in financial trouble. Companies that operate more than three charter schools with an average "A" or "B" grade over the last three years would be classified as a "high-performing charter school system."

Charter schools with the new designation would be allowed to add grade levels and increase their enrollment by up to 25 percent a year. Charter school systems would be able to establish a new school in any district in the state if the new school would "replicate" one of its existing schools.

Democrats and school district officials have been quick to say that they support charter schools. But they have questioned giving charters the ability to grow with less oversight from elected school boards.

Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat and head of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, called Thrasher's bill aggressive.

"If this bill passes, we will have public schools, charter schools, high-performing charter schools, high-performing charter school systems, virtual school, district virtual schools, Florida virtual schools, blended virtual schools — those are coming up later — charter virtual schools and so on," Montford said. He was referring to pending measures also expected to pass that would expand online school offerings.

"The question is: How much can a school district absorb and properly manage?"

Last year, 37,000 students were turned away after entering charter school admission lotteries, according to Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future. Ninety-seven percent of those children were on a waiting list for an "A" or "B" charter school.

The House has a slightly different version of the bill than the Senate, HB 7195, which includes a provision prohibiting cities and counties from imposing zoning and building restrictions only on charter schools.

Neither version contains an earlier provision forcing districts to accept charter schools set up through universities and community colleges.

Patricia Mazzei can be reached at

Florida lawmakers close to lifting barriers for charter schools 04/28/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 28, 2011 9:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs


    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Trump announces $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that's expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history.

    President Donald Trump embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the East Room of the White House during an announcement Wednesday that Foxconn is going to build a plant in Wisconsin.
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with critical series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater


    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks


    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  5. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here (w/ video)

    The Heater


    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, it better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher it can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]