Representatives of four high-profile charter school networks told a Florida House committee they are eyeing the state for future expansions. They also discussed the barriers that might keep them away.
When it comes to attracting top charter school operators, the Sunshine State has a lot going for it.
It’s the third-largest state. Its population is growing — so much so that some districts are rolling out the welcome mat to charters that might help exert growth. Its 20-year-old charter school law is ninth-best in the nation, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. It has more than 650 charter schools and thriving school choice culture. But since charters enroll one in ten of its 2.8 million public school students, it isn’t totally saturated.
And yet, the state has struggled to attract the kind operators that appeared before the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee this week — organizations that draw national headlines for targeting the most disadvantaged students and pushing them toward college.
Each of the charter groups cited potential obstacles that, in one form or another, are on lawmakers’ radar during the upcoming legislative session: Teacher certification rules, school facilities, equitable funding.
BASIS runs academically “hyper-accelerated” charter schools in Arizona, Texas and Washington. Its schools push ninth-graders to take precalculus and require their students to take at least six Advanced Placement exams. It’s created elementary schools and extended school days to make its demanding academics accessible to low-income students.
CEO Peter Bezanson said Florida is one of the top four states where BASIS eyeing future growth.
“We wanted to be a great choice, a high-quality choice for every kid who is willing to work hard,” he said.
BASIS schools like to hire “subject-expert teachers,” Bezanson said. If teachers are well-trained in a subject like physics and have an ability to connect with students, he said, certification exams and other regulations become needlessly onerous.