Sunday, October 30, 2011

Florida's Charter School "Boom"

According to Charter Schools USA, new Florida legislation "has sparked a 38 percent increase in charters applying to open, or nearly 100 more this year over last year’s 252. The state has more than 400 charter schools, the third highest number in the country. More than 130,000 Florida students, or 5 percent of its public-schooled students, attended charters in 2009-2010." This new law provides an easier process for opening new charters for those who have demonstrated academic and financial success.

Nevertheless, elected county school boards are still responsible for determining how many and which charter applications will be accepted. Some disagree with this process and suggest that an independent body should replace local control in these determinations. One proponent of such a change is Charter School USA CEO John Hage, who was an advisor to former Governor Jeb Bush and participated in the drafting of Florida law creating charter schools in 1996. Local school boards express concerns over further erosion of local control.

Polk County rejected Charter School USA's request to open a charter school citing a failure to demonstrate compliance with "the state's new law for duplicating the programs of other high-performing charter schools." Charter School USA has decided to appeal this rejection to the State Board of Education.

Clay County schools is the largest county without any charter schools citing its existing quality programs as the reason. The Clay County school board is unconvinced that charters will exceed what the traditional schools already offer. However, School Board chairman Frank Ferrell worries that "lawmakers would further erode the limited oversight school districts have over charters."

“I think some of that authority is being taken away,” Ferrell said.

Read more in School Board's Getting Tough on Charter Applications.

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