1. Gradebook

Florida House advances Ron DeSantis’ charter school expansion plan

The proposal would make it easier to open charter schools in low-income communities, using a Trump tax law initiative.
Dozens of newly failing schools across Florida applied to receive grant funding through a new “Schools of Hope” program that was enacted through a controversial education bill known as House Bill 7069. Newly proposed legislation would change the program. [Miami Herald file photo]
Dozens of newly failing schools across Florida applied to receive grant funding through a new “Schools of Hope” program that was enacted through a controversial education bill known as House Bill 7069. Newly proposed legislation would change the program. [Miami Herald file photo]
Published Mar. 18, 2019
Updated Mar. 18, 2019

Florida House leadership has unveiled another proposal aimed at enacting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ goal of widely expanding school choice programs.

This time, it would open the door for a broader influx of charter schools into the state’s poorest communities.

A bill from the PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee, filed late Friday, would allow the establishment of “Hope” charter schools in “opportunity zones” — created as part of President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law aimed at boosting investment in economically struggling areas. It additionally would permit the schools, which gain permission to operate in Florida from the state Department of Education rather than from districts, near schools that have earned grades lower than C in three of the past five years.

The current law does not speak to “opportunity zones,” and it allows the “Hope” schools in areas where the public schools have earned a D or F in three consecutive years.

The proposal closely mirrors language that DeSantis recommended in February shortly after announcing his education priorities for the legislative session.

It differs greatly from a Senate bill that is not nearly as expansive. In announcing their session goals, key education senators spoke at greater lengths about expanding communities in schools grant programs to public schools serving low-income neighborhoods. They made no mention of “opportunity zones” at all.

The House included a proposal to grow the community school model that Senate president pro tem David Simmons has put forth as a critical piece to helping families in need. It also offered a change to Simmons’ program that has granted $2,000 per student to up to 25 public schools in turnaround mode.

The House would lower the grant amount to $500 per student, and grow the program to 75 public schools.

Simmons, who sits on the education and appropriations committees, could prove an influential voice on how the ideas look as the two chambers seek to sync their bills. He could not be reached for comment.

Both the House and Senate bills are scheduled to be heard on Tuesday. The Senate Education Appropriations committee takes up SB 7070 at 10 a.m., while the House PreK-12 Innovation committee convenes at noon.

Related coverage: First Florida ‘Schools of Hope’ charter company operators approvedTwo more charter school groups seek to become Florida ‘Schools of Hope’ providers (2018)


  1. More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK  |  Times]
  2. Hudson High student Kaitlyn Helzer introduces herself to a curious corn snake during the Nature Coast Envirothon, held Feb. 19 at Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Sumter County. Students from Pasco, Hernando, Sumter and Citrus counties tested their knowledge on aquatics, forestry, soils and wildlife while vying for a spot at state competition. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
  3. Incoming Superintendent Addison Davis (center) and School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) sign Davis' contract with the Hillsborough County School District after it was unanimously approved by the school board on February 18, 2020. [JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ  |  Times]
  4. Teacher Dequita Parker guides youngsters to lunch from the playground Sept. 20 at the PromiseLand Early Childhood Education Center in Tampa.
  5. Associate professor of biology Caitlin Gille leads the Pasco-Hernando State College faculty union, which challenged the school's public comment rules.  (Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Gille)
  6. Sen. Audrey Gibson, leader of the Florida Senate Democrats, introduces a bill in January to refocus the $900 million proposed for teacher pay into salaries for all public school employees. It's just one of many ideas still floating around Tallahassee relating to educator raises. [The Florida Channel]
  7. A small group of students were rushed inside a bus at dismissal at AMIKids on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 in Pinellas Park.  [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  8. School employees Jarvis Delon West, left, and Dontae Antonio Thomas, right, were both arrested in connection with the assault and injury of a 12-year-old boy who attended AMIkids in Pinellas Park. The state shut the school down. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  9. First Lady Casey DeSantis talks with students during the Hope for Healing a mental and substance abuse initiative held Roland Park K-8 School in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said state officials worked closely with DeSantis to craft the new rule. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
  10. In this Feb. 14, 2018, photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland after a shooter opened fire on the campus. [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
  11. Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook, left, celebrates her reelection to her fifth term in 2016. If ultimately approved, a term limits proposal would force Florida's school board members out after two consecutive terms.
  12. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini fields questions on the House floor on Feb. 19, 2020, about his proposal to ask voters to limit school board member terms. [The Florida Channel]