Charter Proposal Reviews: Small Celebration Due?

fireworks-683044_1280The Naples News ran a story that could give us heart.

The Florida State Board of Education is expected to vote on a rule change next week that could help weed out poor charter operators.

Let’s hope they do the right thing.

 Evidently no new law is required, just a rule change.

Jacob Carpenter, Naples News

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Board of Education is set to vote next week on a rule change that would require charter school applicants to disclose much more information about their experience and history with running other charters.

If approved at Wednesday’s meeting, prospective charter school governing board members would need to list their past affiliations with other charter schools, including those that have failed, and detail the performance of those campuses. Currently, prospective board members are only required to provide “a brief description of the person’s background that highlights the contribution he/she intends to make.”

The change comes in response to the closure of about 125 charters since 2008, including several by the same group of operators, as detailed in a Daily News investigation last year.

An agenda summary states that the rule change “would make it easier for charter school sponsors to assess an applicant’s history,” and that the change has been “extensively” discussed with charter operators.

Florida school board members, who are responsible for approving or denying charter applicants, have long complained that they don’t have enough authority to deny charter applicants with checkered academic and financial backgrounds. While state law doesn’t explicitly say charter applicants can be denied based on past failures, it also doesn’t prohibit school board members from doing so. Some districts have also started requesting past performance data from applicants, even though it’s not mandated by the state.

Under the rule charge, each board member would be required to all past affiliations with charter schools, as well as academic and financial information about those schools. For any proposed board member who oversaw a now-closed school, a separate explanation would have to be written.

Prospective charter school management companies, which contract with nonprofit charter governing boards, would also have to disclose their past performance.

Similar requirements were included in sweeping charter reform bills proposed in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate during this legislative term. Those bills, however, were collateral damage in the state’s budget and health care fight, never receiving a vote after the House adjourned early.

The 125 closed charters since 2008 all were shuttered amid academic failures, financial issues or administrative mismanagement. Cracks in state law and rules allowed many ill-prepared and ill-intentioned operators into the system, and county school boards often failed to properly scrutinize applicants.

(Comment:  I left out a statement in the article about grade comparisons since charters serve more students from higher income families.  Grade comparisons should match schools serving the same population demographics.)


Posted in Authorization, Florida.

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