KIPP Miami in the works for Liberty City

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A new “school of hope” could soon be coming to the cradle of Florida’s charter school movement.

On Oct. 11, the Miami-Dade County School Board approved an item laying the groundwork for a collaboration with KIPP Miami.

The plans would bring the nation’s largest nonprofit charter school network to Liberty City. It would be KIPP’s second Florida location. The first operates in Jacksonville.

The school board documents consummate a grant program the state Department of Education launched three years ago. The Miami-Dade school board agreed to recruit a nationally recognized charter school operator. It would receive a state grant, backed by national philanthropists. And the district and the charter would work together to help disadvantaged students.

Plans call for the district to help the charter school with a facility. It would have access to unused space at Poinciana Park Elementary School. The district would get access to KIPP training programs for select teachers and administrators.

“This Partnership would be the first of its kind in the State of Florida and can serve as a model for such collaboration nationally,” the school board documents say.

The school board plans to approve a charter contract at its November meeting, the documents say. The new KIPP school is slated to open its doors to as many as 400 students in 2018.

The documents note:

KIPP Miami, Inc. will be a unique addition to M-DCPS’ charter school portfolio in that it is a CMO and is seeking to operate in one of the District’s most high need communities, Liberty City.

Liberty City was the site of one of Florida’s first charter schools, backed by then-aspiring Gov. Jeb Bush. That school has since closed.

Florida officials have for years bemoaned the shortage of nationally renowned charter school operators in economically disadvantaged communities. They hoped the district-charter collaboration grants would attract more KIPP-like operators. Over time, they hoped the collaborations would create a better overall climate, with stronger charter oversight and more “high-impact” schools.

Earlier this year, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other top Republicans in the Legislature made a more aggressive push. They created a Schools of Hope program aimed at helping charter organizations with proven track records open in areas where existing public schools struggle.

The proposal became the subject of an intense, partisan battle. It won the support of just one Democrat. Rep. Roy Hardemon, D-Miami, represents Liberty City and won Corcoran’s praise for breaking with his caucus.

Now, fourteen school districts have challenged the new law in two separate court cases. The Miami-Dade school board initially voted to join them. But it’s not a part of the suit. District officials told the public radio station WLRN they intend to exhaust other options before going to court.

KIPP Miami had quietly been in the works for years before the law took effect. Now, the effort is especially worth watching.

We’re reaching out to key players in this developing story for comment. We will updated this post as we get more information.