Florida state board to take up ‘Schools of Hope’ rule next week

Next week, the Florida Board of Education is set to take up much-anticipated rules rolling out the welcome mat for prospective Schools of Hope.

The goal is to attract more proven national charter school organizations into disadvantaged neighborhoods with low-performing schools.

The draft rule would offer three ways for charter school organizations to qualify as “Hope Operators.”

A charter organization could become a Hope Operator if it:

  1. Received a federal grant for the expansion of high-quality charters.
  2. Received financial backing from the national Charter School Growth Fund.
  3. Has been chosen by a local school board to turn around a low-performing district-run public school.

Eventually, the state Department of Education is supposed to hammer out performance criteria that would allow charter school organizations to qualify as Hope Operators based on their academic track records and the characteristics of students they typically serve.

Once charter school organizations get approved as Hope Operators, they could start applying to open Schools of Hope within five miles of any persistently struggling public school in the state. They could submit a notice of intent and a draft performance-based agreement to the local school superintendent. The school district would then have 10 days to ask for changes, and the charter school organization, in turn, would have 10 days to make them.

The district would need to reach a final agreement with the charter organization within 60 days. If it didn’t, the state could start docking the administrative fees the district charges charter schools.

If there are any disputes, the district or the charter school could petition the state for mediation, which the state Board of Education could ultimately resolve. If a state-appointed magistrate sided with the charter school operator, and the school district refused to go along, it could enter a performance contract with the state board instead.

This is one of the issues in the wide-ranging lawsuit multiple school districts filed against the state. The districts argue allowing the state board, rather than districts, to enter performance contracts with charter schools violates the state constitution. But the proposed rule makes clear that would be a last resort.

Some state board members have said time is of the essence. They’ve been pushing to adopt rules quickly so charter operators can start making moves into Florida. If the board approves it, the new rule would open up the process next month.

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