Does Florida need a charter school institute?

Travis Pillow
Rep. Manny Diaz Jr.

Rep. Manny Diaz Jr.

Florida’s charter school sector, first created in 1996, has grown into its late teens. Its maturity has policymakers contending with a new set of issues.

How can the state improve districts’ oversight of charter schools without subjecting them to unwanted mandates? Is the next generation of teachers and school administrators being prepared for changes sweeping through education, from the rise of digital learning to the proliferation of options outside of traditional school districts? If educators want to launch a new charter school, where can they go to figure out how?

A key lawmaker wants his colleagues to consider creating a new think-tank like institution, housed in one of the state’s universities, to study charter schools and the issues they face.

Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, has scheduled the issue for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting of the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee, which he chairs.

The idea, he said in an interview, is to create an independent resource, housed in an “academic environment” outside the state’s system of K-12 education governance.

Universities in other states, like Michigan and Colorado, have created charter school institutes or centers. But those institutions are primarily authorizers of charter schools  a function that, in Florida, is largely reserved for school districts.

Diaz said he envisions something a little different. It would be a “multi-faceted” institution that studies the practices of high-quality charters, examines teacher preparation programs, and promotes good authorizing  functions that could make the state’s system of district-supervised charter schools work better.

It could also give national charter school organizations a one-stop shop where they can understand Florida’s charter landscape better.

“It would be a place where you can collect resources and best practices,” he said, and study questions like, “What are the things that future teachers and administrators need to be exposed to” as they prepare to go into classrooms?

The idea is also a sign of the times, as lawmakers look for ways to improve the quality of charter schools without placing more mandates on districts or charters.

The Choice and Innovation panel is also set to get an update on the implementation of Florida’s Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts at Tuesday’s meeting. That program is administered by organizations like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog and employs the author of this post.

You may also like