‘Time is of the essence’ for Florida charter school recruitment

Travis Pillow


Florida needs to hurry up and hash out its landmark charter school legislation, a key member of the state Board of Education said today.

Gary Chartrand is a longtime backer of KIPP Jacksonville. For years, he’s called for the state to recruit more charter school organizations with similar missions, and similar national profiles, to high-poverty, academically struggling areas.

He said the new Schools of Hope law gives him hope that can finally happen. The legislation creates a revolving loan plan, a grant program and a streamlined application process for charter school operators with proven track records that want to open within five miles of a persistently struggling school.But for the law to work, Chartrand said the state needs to hustle. He said he’d met with one unnamed “high-impact” charter school operator eyeing Florida expansions. That organization plans to approve a growth plan before the end of the year. If it’s going to take advantage of the new programs, it’s going to need more clarity about how they will work. The state is working on rules, which the board is expected to take up during its next meeting.

“The sooner the better, because people are making decisions as we speak about where their growth plans are going to be,” Chartrand said. He added: “Time is of the essence, and I’m hopeful that more high-impact, non-profit charter schools that serve the most challenged students will come to Florida.”

Operators have a second set of concerns, he said. They want to know the money that supports the grants will last through the coming years, as new leaders take over in Tallahassee.

The state board today approved the first Schools of Hope grants. They went to 11 district-run public schools, where they’ll help expand wraparound services and offer college-prep academic programs. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said the 11 schools were deemed likely to carry out the requirements of the program. Nearly four dozen other schools had applied. The law allows up to 25 grants through the branch of the Hope program that’s open to district schools. Stewart told the board she wanted to allow another round of applications for the remaining grants.

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