If you want to take the pulse of charter school legislative priorities, watch this video. It is yesterday’s Florida Senate Education Committee workshop on charters. They have a long list of proposed bills to consider, and they are looking for ways to combine bills in order to move forward.
The two most comprehensive bills were from Senator Montford and Senator Legg.
The workshop was a welcome airing of the issues. Out of the discussion will come new combined bills to address them. You can access the video. My presentation is at 1:04.37 minutes into the video. I addressed facilities, management and high performing charters. (Senator Legg and I are not related.)
The topics under consideration included: background checks for charter operators, a proposed charter institute at Florida State University to aid in charter authorization and evaluation; financial funding and reporting; facilities, management, and innovation.
Each topic has a subtext e.g.:
Authorization: Background checks: charter operators with poor records move from one area to the next to open schools. Districts need to be able to track the history of operators. Some open charters, take start up money and close within the year. Districts cannot reclaim the money from closed charters.
New charters: Charters should fill unmet needs. Allow high performing charters to open automatically with long term contracts was proposed. Determining the definition of ‘high performing’ needed clarification.
FSU Charter Institute: Members questioned the real purpose of the institute. Was it a mechanism to create a state-wide charter authorization and evaluation agency outside of the Department of Education? Committee members wondered why FSU was selected. This is the latest version of the ongoing struggle over local district vs. state control of charters.
Financial funding: The bills cover surety bonds for financial solvency of charter proposers, monthly statements from charters, timely pass through of funds from districts vs. withholding of funds when misuse is indicated, audits when charters close etc.
Facilities: Allocating unused district school space to charters, excessive lease payments, and sharing capital outlay funding were discussed.
Management: Independence of charter advisory boards from charter management companies; improved transparency of financial records; documenting student withdrawals and fund transfers to subsequent schools, and for-profit charter management problems were raised.
We are tracking bills. You can find bill links and summaries in the blog under the Legislative Update banner (green chalkboard on the Home Page).