Some ideas never really go away. Here is one. Representative Manny Diaz (R) Hialeah, has filed a bill to create charter school districts. This idea surfaced at the beginning of the charter movement in Florida, but it died of inaction. Here it comes again. See the details…
HB 357 was filed this week. It is called the Charter School District Pilot Program. The bill would allow six districts to convert 3 middle and/or high schools into charters. It appears that the districts would create a charter district within the school district. There is no mention in the bill of elementary schools, only middle and high schools. The charter district, however, does not report to the public school district, it reports to the Florida Board of Education.
Current teachers who remain at or transfer to the charters retain their status as district employees. The principals at the charters, however, will hire their own staffs. Typically, new teachers in charters are hired in an ‘at will’ category. This means these teachers are exempt from traditional district salary and benefit plans. Teachers can also be fired without cause. If the school wants a longer school day and school year, it can finance it by hiring less experienced, less costly teachers. The trade off is that teacher turnover at charters is generally high. Less experienced teachers with few benefits often leave.
The funding for charter districts would be different from the funding for other charters that are currently operating. More money would go to district charters, and it would come out of traditional public school budgets. Traditional school district funds are allocated by the state using a per pupil formula. The district can vary each individual school’s allocation as long as no school receives less than 80% of the funding it would generate based on its enrollment.
The charter school districts, however, would be guaranteed 90% of the money they generate. Charters also would receive a portion of any local referendum revenue. Most districts currently do not share that locally generated revenue with charters. Thus, the new charter districts would have more flexibility at the expense of the public school district. They would use public school buildings and have more money.
In order to implement a charter school district, the traditional school district board would approve goals and performance measures for the proposed charter district. The charter schools would participate in the same accountability plan as current charter. The new principals would receive training in managing staff, budgets, and flexible ways to utilize them. After three years, the charter district would be evaluated, and a decision of whether or not to continue them would be made.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, 3 districts applied for charter status years ago and then decided there were few advantages. Why there would be advantages now is difficult to determine. Districts can create magnet schools, or magnet programs within schools to offer choice to parents and students. Why they would give public tax dollars to private companies to run charters is not self evident.
Thus far, there is no companion bill to HB 357 in the Senate. We will watch and wait to see what happens.