1. Gradebook

Florida House okays universities, colleges as charter school authorizers

Most Democrats fought the proposal, saying it looked like an end-run around school districts.
Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, encourages his colleagues to approve a measure allowing colleges and universities to authorize charter schools in Florida. The bill passed 74-37, along mostly partisan lines. [The Florida Channel]
Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, encourages his colleagues to approve a measure allowing colleges and universities to authorize charter schools in Florida. The bill passed 74-37, along mostly partisan lines. [The Florida Channel]
Published Apr. 25, 2019

While the Florida Senate advanced major legislation to expand vouchers and charter schools in the state, the lower chamber took a less publicized step of its own to ease the path for more charters to open, too.

Along mostly partisan lines, the House approved a bill (HB 1197) to allow public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, a role left solely to district school boards currently.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican, worked to respond to many Democrat-raised concerns as the bill moved through committees to the floor. He added language, for instance, making clear that a school district’s state grade would not be affected by the performance of a university-sponsored charter.

“Every committee stop I’ve made it slightly better,” Fischer said, acknowledging the input from the minority party.

He suggested the proposal maintains the public nature of charter schools, as only public colleges and universities may participate, and contended it increases accountability for charters, because the participating institutions would go through a review process with the Department of Education before they can become authorizers.

Most Democrats, however, balked at the idea of creating an alternate way for charter approval.

“To me, this is a carve out of the school boards," said Rep. John Cortes, a Kissimmee Democrat. “To me, this is another way of taking money away from our public schools again.”

Rep. Joe Geller, an Aventura Democrat, said he thought the bill included some worthwhile ideas, such as allowing colleges and universities to establish charter schools that accompany their mission and help students move seamlessly from high school to higher education.

But overall, Geller said, “there are too many loopholes. They may really be serving as conduits here, and cutting out school boards” in their “legitimate” role overseeing K-12 education in their districts.

What’s more, the bill is unnecessary, said Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Broward County Democrat. He noted that universities already have lab and collegiate K-12 schools on their campus, and can create those under existing law.

“There really is no need for this,” Jones said, echoing debate from previous committee stops.

Democrats have pushed back against the expansion of charter schools for years, contending they take tax dollars away from the traditional public school system that they say is enshrined in the state constitution. The state Supreme Court ruled against a state-level charter authorizer more than a decade ago.

The Constitution Revision Commission tried and failed to put the concept before voters in 2018.

The majority of Democrats in the House voted against the bill. Among those who backed the measure were Susan Valdes of Tampa, James Bush III of Miami, Kim Daniels of Jacksonville, and Patricia Williams of Lauderdale Lakes.

The bill next heads to the Senate, where a similar proposal has not been heard this session.


  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 [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK]
  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]