Some legislators are truly focused on improving the management and oversight of Florida’s schools. Three cheers to each of them. Here’s a brief description of bills related to charters, capital outlay funding, ethics, early childhood education and community schools.
SB 1690 Farmer. Requires principals and chief financial officers of charters to have valid third party certification. Given the importance of principals in schools’ success, it is important that principals have knowledge of educational issues, instructional strategies, operations, funding, and management. Top Priority Support
SB 1672 Farmer. This bill gives districts the discretion to share local discretionary capital outlay funding with charters rather than requiring districts to do so. It also requires charter financing companies to have at least an A- rating, and the right of eminent domain does not apply to charters.
These provisions are important. The discretionary capital outlay issue is part of the lawsuit over the local control of districts to operate public schools. Millions of dollars of local funding will now go to privately owned charter schools. Florida’s charter closure rate is the highest in the nation with at least 300 closed. The buildings are retained by the private owners.
Charter bond ratings are at risk because many have low initial payments at high interest and large balloon payments at the end.
HB 6047 Charter Schools Newton, Berman. Repeals certain capital outlay funding for lab schools. Deletes provisions stating charter schools are eligible for capital outlay funding and that Schools of Hope are considered charter schools and may not use capital outlay for purchasing facilities. Top Priority Support
SB 1750 Rodriguez. Ethics. Prohibits public officials from voting on bills that inure financial gain to themselves and related others. The legislature had changed the ethics rules to allow members to vote on bills on which they could benefit if they disclosed their interest and if the bill affected a ‘class’ e.g. a group of people rather than the legislator alone. Top Priority Support
HB 1297 Brown. The bill strengthens early childhood programs by terminating those with repeated citations. High Priority Support
HB 4331 Community Partnership Schools. This is an appropriations bill to support the University of Central Florida’s community partnership schools for $2,930,570. UCF is the partner with the Children’s Home Society community schools that bring wrap around services, after school programs, and parental education programs to public schools it sponsors in collaboration with local agencies and businesses. There are nine schools statewide that are being expanded to 17 public schools. Additional information to track this bill is located here.