The Florida Senate wants to increase the role of military base commanders in creating charter schools on their installations.
At its core, the Senate’s charter school legislation remains short and simple, placing it on a potential collision course with the House, which has proposed a broader overhaul of Florida charter school laws.
Under the latest rewrite, approved Wednesday by the Senate Education Appropriations subcommittee, the Senate legislation would allow military commanders to sit on charter school governing boards and to submit applications to open charter schools on their bases.
It would avoid more contentious changes to charter school statutes.
Earlier this year, supporters withdrew an appeal to open a charter school on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa after their plan was rebuffed by the local school district (more background here). They have pledged to rework the application and make another attempt.
The issue got the attention of lawmakers, who already have approved legislation intended to encourage charter schools for military families. Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, said the new charter school legislation would “recognize that there are unique needs at our military installations.”
Democrats proposed a series of other changes to the bill, some them backed by school districts. But they were defeated after Legg and others warned the amendments could make it more difficult for new charter schools to open. The committee heard wide-ranging debate and testimony about various other provisions that are no longer in the bill, but remain part of the House legislation.
“One thing I’ve learned in the Legislature in my now going on 10 sessions is every year we’ll debate a budget, and every year we’ll debate charter schools,” Legg said. “This is the charter school debate of 2014, but it deals with military charter schools, and that’s it.”