Governor DeSantis announced he plans to expand charter schools into 247 federally designated Opportunity Zones. These charters would fall under a revision of the current Schools of Hope legislation. They can open within a five mile radius of a persistently low performing public school without district approval. There were 53 persistently low performing schools in 2018.
The change in the Schools of Hope legislation to Opportunity Zones would mean that a charter could open without district approval in any of 247 federally designated low income areas in Florida even if there was already a school that was not low performing. The financial incentive for opening these charters is a tax break on real estate. But then, real estate investments are the motive for a majority of charter school owners…nothing new there.
There are four ‘high performing’ charter companies qualified to open these schools: Democracy Prep; KIPP New Jersey; IDEA, and Somerset. Somerset is a subdivision of Academica, Florida’s largest for-profit charter management company.
These schools post high achievement for the students who survive. Here are some articles about the reasons why:
IDEA is a no nonsense selective charter school that admits students with no discipline problems. It has a grade retention policy for students who struggle. Of those in Austin, Texas who started ninth grade, at best 65% graduated. They serve primarily Hispanic students. A report on IDEA is here.
Democracy Prep had its origins in Harlem, New York. This chain has a high student attrition rate, but it does add some new students as others drop out. It boasts high percentage of students entering college, but a low college completion rate. The percentage of ninth graders remaining until high school graduation is shown in the graph below.
KIPP charters are also ‘no nonsense’ charters. They have a relatively high fifth grade retention rate, and as students drop out, they are replaced by higher achieving students.
Somerset is a group of Academica charters based primarily in Miami. It was the only management company to bid on the takeover of Jefferson County schools in 2017-18. The latest school grade report shows an improvement from a ‘D’ to a ‘C’.