Fla. House avoids controversy with charter school changes

Travis Pillow

Florida charter schools wouldn’t get a new source of construction funding under revisions to a sweeping education bill on the second-to-last day of the legislative session. Under the plan approved by the state House this evening, they also wouldn’t face new restrictions on how that money can be spent.

The rewrite of HB 7029, approved on an 81-37 vote, would still change charter school laws, though.

It would require would-be charter school operators to disclose details of their academic and financial track records when they apply to local school boards. It would explicitly ban them from kicking out students based on academic performance. And while it wouldn’t make big changes to capital funding for charters, it would change the way that money is divvied up.

Charter schools that received capital funding during the 2005-06 school year would no longer get top priority for future rounds of state capital funding. And charters could qualify for the funding after two years of operation, inctead of the current three.

The omnibus bill would make other changes to state education laws, from preschools to colleges. Notably, it would create statewide open enrollment for public schools.

Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, who supported more ambitious charter school policies, including a measure encouraging “high-impact” charter schools to open in undeserved neighborhoods, said most controversial provisions had been taken out of the bill.

“I think it’s a good package,” he said on the House floor. “It helps get some things accomplished while removing some objections.”

The measure would still need to pass the Senate on Friday before it can reach Gov. Rick Scott.

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