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. Pinellas high school students march alongside Lynda Blackmon Lowery, center, during Tuesday's Unity Walk in Clearwater to commemorate the iconic 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. “Use your power," Lowery told the students. "Use your voice.” [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times]
    With chants of "mighty, mighty children” they summoned lessons from the civil rights era in search of inspiration for the future.
  2. Rep. Bobby DuBose says he hopes 2020 will be the year the Florida Legislature limits the use of restraint and seclusion on students with special needs who grow violent. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘I pray to God this year will be the year,’ sponsor Rep. Bobby DuBose says.
  3. State Senate Education Appropriations chairwoman Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, unveils her chamber's 2020-21 education budget proposal during a brief committee meeting on Jan. 28, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    Sen. Kelli Stargel suggests the state should meet Gov. Ron DeSantis’ minimum salary goal ‘over the next several years.’
  4. Florida lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at improving the outcomes of the state's prekindergarten program. Some critics suggest the proposed solutions, such as added testing, go too far.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  5. Victoria Arriaga, left, does a letter-matching activity during Priscilla Perez's pre-kindergarten class at West Tampa Elementary School. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
    The 148-page bill would lead to a new ‘grading’ system for prekindergarten providers, so parents can better choose programs for their toddlers.
  6. Pasco County's Fivay High School has added new security measures to keep the peace on campus. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times]
    Parents want to see more control of the campus.
  7. Hillsborough County Chief of Schools Harrison Peters, speaking with students here at Potter Elementary School, is a the choice to become superintendent of Providence, R.I., schools. [Times file (2016)]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. Harrison Peters, Chief of Schools in Hillsborough County, has landed a job as superintendent in Providence, R.I. [HCPS  |  Handout]
    Peters will become a turnaround superintendent at a troubled district.
  9. Gov. Ron DeSantis. [STEVE CANNON  |  AP]
    Florida students will read more classical literature and learn math differently, according to summary documents.
  10. Janessa Horsford, 5, says goodbye to her parents, Julytsa and Nigel Horsford, on her first day of kindergarten at Lake Magdalene Elementary School.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.