It’s National School Choice Week, and Florida House leaders say this is their year to get rid of restrictions to the expansion of Florida Tax Credit Scholarships and charter schools. House Education committee chair Michael Bileca, R.Miami and House PreK-12 Education Appropriations Chair Manny Diaz R. Hialeah are leading the charge. They may be aided by Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the House, R. Pasco. Corcoran’s wife started Classical Preparatory School. It is not a Title I school; it has only 30% minority and FRL children. The percentage of minority children (30%) is similar to the district percentage. The difference is that Classical Prep charter has 31% who qualify for FRL while the district percentage was 56.3. So, this charter is selecting children primarily from higher income families. It is not clear what need this charter fills.
While Corcoran does not have a continuing financial benefit from the school which his children attend, allegations of personal interest have been raised and denied. According to the Miami Herald, Corcoran worked with Senator Gaetz to curb personal enrichment schemes and limit capital outlay funding to non-profit charter management firms. The 2016 bill, however, dropped these measures to curb abuse on the last day of the session. Yet, Corcoran has gone on record to oppose the continued self dealing in the legislature. Hopefully, this will extend to charter schools.
No doubt it will be another contentious year over support for public education vs. the privatization effort to expand funding for corporate charter schools and private school vouchers. We can expect proposals to provide higher levels of funding for private schools and charters. Since state revenue is not likely to increase, the money will likely come from corporations and the increased support for charters from the federal government. It will be a tug of war.