Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Romano: Florida House's charter school bill would surrender local control

Try to follow the logic here:

(You'll know you're on the right track when you start feeling dizzy.)

Charter schools are growing rapidly in Florida. Enrollment has nearly tripled since 2004, suggesting that parents have embraced this concept of non-traditional school choice.

At the same time, charters are also failing rapidly. Florida had the second-most school closings in the nation last year. In Pinellas and Hillsborough counties alone, nearly 30 charters have opened and closed in recent years.

Charter growth is clearly not a problem.

Charter accountability, on the other hand, might be.

So do you:

A) Say it's time to monitor charter applications more closely?

B) Say the plan is working and continue on the same path?

C) Say "Yippee!" and make it even easier to open charters?

If you chose C, you just might be a state legislator.

Earlier this week, the state House passed a bill that would standardize charter school contracts, which means local school boards would lose control of the approval process.

I believe the technical term for that type of bill is crazycakes.

"It's pretty egregious,'' said Hillsborough County school superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

"I think it's a very dangerous type of slope,'' said Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego.

Before growing too alarmed, I should tell you the bill is still a long shot to survive. If all goes well, the Senate will kill it the same way it killed the so-called parent trigger bills that also promoted pedal-to-the-metal charter growth the past two years.

But isn't it worth asking why we always have to depend on senators to throw us a life line after the House has driven off yet another ideological cliff?

Our state representatives either have a stunning lack of common sense or shame, and I'm not sure which would be worse.

Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed, were originally pitched as a way to fill alternative roles in education. And while most are remarkably well-run and successful, there are also far too many that are horribly mismanaged.

Gobs of taxpayer money gets flushed down the toilet with every failed charter, not to mention the lost academic years for students and the disruption to other schools in the district when they're flooded with students from a shuttered charter.

"What we need to be asking is how can we best protect the voices of our students who are directly affected by this,'' Grego said. "This is their lives, it's not an experiment.''

If charters are given standardized contracts, the particular needs and circumstances of individual districts will be lost, and accountability will be jettisoned. On the other hand, life will be much simpler for the charter companies.

Which, by the way, would include the for-profit company that employs Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, who happens to be the House sponsor of this bill.

The larger picture, of course, is that this legislation is part of the state's methodical, and not very subtle, attempt to privatize education through charters and vouchers.

"This bill undermines the relationship between school districts and charter schools,'' Elia said. "They are allowing these for-profit charter companies to grow out of control.''

This bill is reckless and irresponsible. It's shortsighted and possibly unconstitutional. Worst of all, it is motivated by financial gains and not student achievement.

In other words, it's business as usual for the House of Representatives in Florida.

Romano: Florida House's charter school bill would surrender local control 04/23/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 10:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Erasmo Ramirez shuts down his old Rays teammates

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem is, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  3. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.
  4. Despite pain, woman in court faces ex-boyfriend who lit her on fire



    Sheron Pasco sat in the wheelchair as her mother pushed it toward the man in the orange jail suit.

    Sheron Pasco, 39, relies on the help of her mother, Tranda Webb, 62, as she recovers from the burns covering her body.
  5. Florida starter under center still under wraps


    GAINESVILLE — With two weeks before Florida opens its season against Michigan, the Gators' three-way quarterback battle remains wide open.

    Luke Del Rio, right, is in the mix to start against Michigan in the season opener … as is Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks.