Proposed Fla. legislation aimed at attracting top charter school operators

Travis Pillow

A Florida House panel is drafting legislation aimed at drawing more “high-impact” charter school networks to the state’s most undeserved neighborhoods.

While the state is home to nearly 650 charter schools and more than 250,000 charter-school students, it’s attracted only a few schools operated by the likes of KIPP and Yes Prep, which have national reputations for helping disadvantaged students.

The proposed legislation, reviewed today by the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee, would allow those networks to apply for “high-impact” status with the state Board of Education.

Under the bill, high-impact charter schools wouldn’t have to wait three years to qualify for state facilities funding. High-impact schools in areas with “critical” academic needs (meaning they’re served by D- or F-rated public schools) would also be exempt from the administrative fees school districts typically charge.

Adam Miller, who runs the state department’s school choice office, told the panel that “both the amount of funding available, as well as the predictability” of state capital outlay funding were among the key barriers to national charter school groups expanding in the state. Funding amounts are set annually by the Legislature, and have eroded in recent years.

High-impact status would be reserved for charter networks that serve “primarily educationally disadvantaged students.” Charter operators would also have to present student achievement data, graduation rates, college attendance rates and other measures of their academic results to the state board.

The legislative change could complement to a state Department of Education grant program, which has the twin aims of drawing more top-flight charter schools to Florida’s inner cities and increasing their collaboration with school districts.

Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, who chairs the panel, said the proposed legislation is an “initial draft” of what will likely become the House’s main charter school legislation this year.

The bill would also revive some provisions from last year’s charter school bill, which faltered late in the legislative session. Among other things, it includes changes aimed at helping school districts improve their authorizing, and a provision creating a charter school institute at Florida State University.

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4 comments

Query October 6, 2015 - 11:30 pm

YES Prep is in Florida? Where? I thought they were just in Houston, having recently pulled back from expanding to Memphis.

Travis Pillow October 7, 2015 - 9:36 am

That’s right. They aren’t in Florida. The idea here is to make Florida more hospitable to operators like them.

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