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Transformers: Public Schools Want to Be More Like Charter Schools

| October 22, 2011


Public schools have enviously watched the rapid rise of charter schools in Florida, with over 500 charter schools statewide and dozens more poised for approval.

The main complaint is that charters have been able to operate with more flexibility than school districts. For instance, charters can use longer school hours, don’t have to bargain with unions on teacher pay and have relaxed standards on class size requirements.

Now, schools have decided they want the same flexibility as charters and are launching a lobbying campaign in the Legislature to relax some public school regulations.

Armed with a sample bill, Juhan Mixon, a lobbyist for several school districts, told a Senate panel Thursday to consider a major rewrite of Florida’s school policies to make some schools more in line with the freedom charter schools enjoy.

If granted the same flexibility of private charters, district-run charters may choose to use larger classrooms than allowed in traditional public schools, set longer school days and provide instruction in converted shopping centers or grocery stores.

The schools would also have more freedom over how their money is spent, freeing up dollars for curriculum, technology improvements and instruction.

Already, several districts within Florida are exploring the idea of operating their own district-run charters.

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said public schools are most interested in using the same class size standards as charters. For charters, class size requirements become based on school averages rather than individual classes.

“Schools would love to have the flexibility of class size that charter schools have,” Montford said.

Earlier this year the Legislature did approve a new law that exempts more classes from the class size caps approved by voters in 2002. But schools are pressing for even more leniency under the law.

Another suggestion Mixon pushed for allowing schools to renovate commercial buildings for classes such as science labs, secondary music rooms, computer labs and gymnasiums that are not used full-time by students.

Mixon called the strict building codes that schools must adhere to “the Cadillac of building codes.” It is designed to protect the safety of children, and charters are largely exempt. As a result, some charter schools operate out of renovated shopping centers, or other commercial buildings.

“We need to look at all the regulations we’ve got and say which ones are not needed?” Mixon said.

But Montford said few schools will want to escape the strict building codes.

“There are some concerns about students attending schools in facilities that do not meet (the strict building codes),” Montford said. “I’m not sure you would find too many school districts taking advantage of that.”

Mixon’s pitch appeared well-received by Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, the head of the Senate Budget Subcommittee on PreK-12 Appropriations, who agreed the idea is “certainly worth looking at.”

“We have learned that school districts can achieve more when they are given more flexibility in certain ways,” Simmons said. “We are trying to make sure we demand the accountability, so flexibility is not a code word for regression.” Simmons said burdensome regulations for schools “need to be addressed.”

Schools argue they are being judged by student performance, just as charters are, than they should be working with the same playbook. Charters are given an unfair advantage, public schools argue.

“All school districts have requested is a level playing field,” said Montford, who is also the head of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. “Same rules, some regulations, some level of transparency.”

–Lilly Rockwell, News Service of Florida

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13 Responses for “Transformers: Public Schools Want to Be More Like Charter Schools”

  1. Jim Guines says:

    With this type of thinking, it should not take long before one will not know which is a charter school and which is a regular school. You have to ask the question, will they all have uniforms? Frankly, as an “old public school man” as long as the kids are educaed and parents are involved, I am about to admit that it probably does not make any difference. By the way, that is a new perspective for me.

  2. Gram says:

    This is a great idea – the whole reason Bill Delbrugge wanted charters in Flagler County was that competition makes schools better. Charters are showing success because they are not as rigid and bureaucratic as district schools, and this is a natural response to competition that will likely benefit all parties.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    All those charter school fans here yes Florida is the state in the whole nation with the most charters…over 500 of them with 340 more applications presented for approval. Now the best part is that 50 percent of those charters are failing when it comes to educating those kids. All in spite the fact that they are exempted from the standards and regulations that our traditional public schools have to abide by.
    Fresen, whose sister and brother-in-law own a charter school management company, Academica, said he sees no conflict between that and his leadership role in education in the legislature…Oh yeah!
    Today I even listen in the news about even more conflict of interest where some charter school owners are also the school principal and the ones hiring the employees….?

  4. Kip Durocher says:

    “Voucher plans have been in place for many years in other countries. Contrary to the claims of pro-voucher advocates in the United States, the experience internationally suggests that voucher plans promise a lot but may actually be worse for children from low-income families, for whom the gains are supposed to be the greatest.

    The primary negative effect of school choice is its natural tendency to increase the educational gap between the privileged and the underprivileged,” John Ambler, referring to voucher plans in Britain, France, and the Netherlands, wrote in the “Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. (1994).

    The most interesting comparison is from Chile, which has a long-standing voucher plan where pupils have been assessed regularly. The Chilean plan began in 1980 …..

    A little research will show you “For Chile’s education system, privatization through a subsidized voucher system has led to an increasingly stratified society, with under funded, underperforming public schools.”

  5. Liana G says:

    …”The main complaint is that charters have been able to operate with more flexibility than school districts. For instance, charters can use longer school hours, don’t have to bargain with unions on teacher pay and have relaxed standards on class size requirements.”…

    FlaglerLive, thank you for opening our eyes to the benefits of charter schools. School vouchers offer similar benefits but with greater choice.

    Longer school hours is incentive enough for most parents to leave for charter schools. When public schools become more like charter schools then there is really no incentive to remain in public schools, particularly in this poverty stricken district with its greatly reduced school hours and astronomically high salaries which rob students of essential school/ classroom resources.

  6. the truth shall set you free says:

    Are the public schools going to take less money like the Charter schools have to as well?

  7. Binkey says:


    What should educators get paid? Should they be paid the same as the private company SES tutoring providers get per student?

    I believe the regulations at public schools are where a lot of costs are.

  8. Liana G says:

    @ Binkey

    I have no idea what SES pays, but a district with a 70% poverty rate and dismal and suspicious scores should not have reduce school hours to maintain the status-quo. Providing children with a quality education should be the first priority of public education, not job security and gouging the public coffer for personal gain. Budget cuts should have been top down and not bottom up.


    We have our share of underperforming public schools here that, thanks to vouchers and charters, many underpriviledged students have been able to break free, achieve, and succeed. Currently, African American women, the most discriminated against minority in this country – for being black and for being female (double whammy) – have the highest % of college degree earners, out performing their male folks (who are discriminated against for being black, not male), and their white female counterparts.

    We have rampant cheating in public schools that have severely impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of students if not millions, and we may never know how far-reaching and how long these practices were going on, but we can certainly see some of the effects in the education of the general population. Probably one on the reasons for the high drop out rates among high schoolers.

    Imagine the despair and utter fraustration of the high school student who has scored well on standardized all through elementary and middle school only to get to high school to find out that they cannot do the work. Certainly brings into question the ethics and morals of those charged with educating our children.

  9. w.ryan says:

    I look at “charter” as a code word for privatized. There are many ridiculous regulations we need to discard. There are some rules that need to be kept. I won’t elaborate because we all can figure them out. It’s simple. Spend the money for the kids and their education. Bail out education. It’s worth the cost.
    By the way…Liana G says: “Currently, African American women, the most discriminated against minority in this country – for being black and for being female (double whammy) – have the highest % of college degree earners, out performing their male folks (who are discriminated against for being black, not male), and their white female counterparts. Black men are being discriminated against for being black and for being male. The play on racism with black men vs black women is very apparent. Liana G spoke of the success rate between the genders. The numbers you quoted contradict your statement. Regardless, spend the money.

  10. dtc says:

    Charter schools are the greatest Republican rip-off of the century and another way to deprive poor children from participating. A voucher only goes so far. If a family can’t come up with the rest of the money, it’s public school for them. Charter schools are just another subsidy for the well-off and the proof is in: public schools are way outperforming charter schools in Florida. Pink Slip Rick is simply handing over money to his “business-educator” pals while taking billions out of the system that has become 5th in the U.S. over the past 4 years. What did Tricky Rick do? He fired the guy who moved Florida from 34th to 5th over those 4 years. Get a grip, Floridians. You’re being had!

  11. Liana G says:

    @ w.ryan –

    “Black men are being discriminated against for being black and for being male.” For being male? Today, many females are denied admission into colleges of their choice because of gender quotas.
    See: Do college admissions officers discriminate against girls?
    By Valerie Strauss (

    “The play on racism with black men vs black women is very apparent.” I’m sorry you saw it this way, I was merely pointing out the successes of motivated black women given their double setbacks.

    The numbers you quoted contradict your statement.

    “Question: What is the percentage of degrees conferred by sex and race?

    From 1998–99 to 2008–09, the percentage of degrees earned by females fluctuated between 61 and 62 percent for associate’s degrees and remained steady around 57 percent for bachelor’s degrees. In contrast, both the percentage of master’s and the percentage of doctoral degrees earned by females increased during this period (from 58 to 60 percent and from 43 to 52 percent, respectively). For nearly all levels of degrees within different racial/ethnic groups, women earned the majority of degrees in 2008–09. For example, Black females earned 68 percent of associate’s degrees, 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 72 percent of master’s degrees, 62 percent of first-professional degrees, and 67 percent of doctoral degrees awarded to Black students. Hispanic females earned 62 percent of associate’s degrees, 61 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 64 percent of master’s degrees, 53 percent of first-professional degrees, and 57 percent of doctoral degrees awarded to Hispanic students. White females earned more degrees than White males for each level of degree except first-professional, for which they earned 46 percent of the degrees awarded.

    From 1998–99 to 2008–09, the number of degrees earned increased for students of all racial/ethnic groups for each level of degree, but at varying rates. For all levels of degrees, the change in percentage distribution of degree recipients was characterized by increased numbers of Black and Hispanic graduates. From 1998–99 to 2008–09, the number of associate’s degrees earned by Hispanics more than doubled (increasing by 101 percent), and the number earned by Black students increased by 77 percent, while the number earned by White students increased by 28 percent. As a result, in 2008–09, Blacks students earned 13 percent and Hispanic students earned 12 percent of all associate’s degrees awarded, up from 10 and 9 percent, respectively, in 1998–99. During the same time period, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Black students increased by 53 percent, and the number awarded to Hispanic students increased by 85 percent. The number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to White students increased by 26 percent. In 2008–09, Black students earned 10 percent and Hispanics earned 8 percent of all bachelor’s degrees conferred, up from 9 and 6 percent, respectively, in 1998–99. Similarly, higher percentages of master’s degrees were conferred to Black and Hispanic students in 2008–09 (11 and 6 percent, respectively) than in 1998–99 (7 and 4 percent, respectively).

    SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). The Condition of Education 2011(NCES 2011-033), Indicator 26.

  12. Doug Chozianin says:

    Charter Schools do something that regular public schools rarely do… THEY FIRE INCOMPETENT TEACHERS!!!

    Go Charter Schools!

    (Did you know… The longer students spend in the Flagler County Public School System the lower the percentage that passed the (2010) FCAT test (e.g.: 3rd grade – 78%; 10th grade – 35%). What is going on???)

  13. Mike says:

    Flexibility would be good for our schools, but the requirement the charter schools have that the parents volunteer two hours a week would be the most beneficial to the public schools. Parent involvement would do the most, to improve the schools, however, good luck getting that passed!

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