Fla. commission backs charter school-friendly constitution proposal

Travis Pillow

Florida voters will get to decide in November whether to impose term limits on elected school board members, allow new forms of public schools sponsored by the state and elevate the importance of civic literacy.

The Constitution Revision Commission voted 27-10 to place a combined K-12 education measure on the general-election ballot.

Commissioner Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board member, sponsored two of the three proposals that make up P. 6003.

She cast the measure in light of Florida’s recent improvement on nationwide English and math assessments.

“Where will the next wave of gains come from?” she asked fellow commissioners.Donalds said the state’s 1967 constitution was drafted before a man landed on the moon. At the time, she said, public education meant one thing: people attended schools assigned and operated by the government. Since then, the definition of public education has changed. However, courts have cited that constitutional language to rule Florida cannot join the 35 states that allow some sort of statewide entity to sponsor charter schools.

One of Donalds’ proposals would change that, allowing the state to create public schools outside the purview of local school districts. That could include additional schools operated by universities, new online school options and state-created charter school authorizers, among other things.

“This is not about giving control to the state,” Donalds said. “It’s about allowing the state to do what they’ve done over and over, which is to give more control to parents.”

Some commissioners pushed to separate that proposal from the other two parts. But they were rebuffed. Supporters of the combined proposal argued it combines nearly all the commission’s proposed changes to Article IX, the education portion of the state’s constitution, into a tidy bundle.

One other proposed Article IX revision, creating “innovation” school districts with more charter-like freedoms, is still pending.

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