In the upcoming legislative session, the Florida Legislature is likely to grapple with an issue that’s come up repeatedly in recent years. How can they stop financially shaky charter schools that suddenly shut down, without creating barriers to legitimate schools?
In a recent interview, Rep. Manny Diaz, who chairs a key panel on school choice issues, said lawmakers are looking for ways to make sure upstart charter schools are financially secure.
“You’re going to have to have a base of support. You’re going to have to have some people involved who can raise some money,” he said. “I think that will eliminate a lot of the issues that we’ve been seeing.”
Next week, Florida lawmakers will have their first discussion about reviving some of the charter school and school choice issues that went unresolved during this year’s legislative session. Tuesday’s meeting of the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee will offer a first look at what’s to come when the next legislative session starts in January.
An idea that’s been floated in recent years would require new charter schools to secure a $250,000 surety bond or line of credit from a bank. If a school suddenly failed, there would be a financial cushion to ensure taxpayers aren’t on the hook. That concept raised concerns among mom-and-pop charter advocates during a meeting of charter school operators and district authorizers in Fort Lauderdale.
“If this was a requirement when we opened 16 years ago, we would have never been able to open, and we have been a high-quality, high-performing school for 14 years,” Maritza Aragon, the principal of the Youth Co-Op Preparatory Charter School in Hialeah, said. She added that “$250,000 for a nonprofit — a real, small, beginning nonprofit — is unrealistic.”