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Proposal Would End Local Districts’ Oversight of Charter Schools in Favor Of State Power

| February 11, 2016

charter schools

Someone closer to home should oversee them. (Warner Bros.)

A constitutional amendment that would set up a statewide entity with the power to approve charter schools anywhere in Florida — bypassing local school districts — is headed to the House floor, along with a bill that would allow parents to send their children to any unfilled schools in the state.

Both measures gained approval Tuesday from the House Education Committee on party-line or nearly party-line votes.

The constitutional amendment (HJR 759) was approved on a party-line 9-6 vote after some committee members had left the room when the meeting ran late. The “open enrollment” bill (HB 669) passed, 13-5, with Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, joining committee Republicans in voting for it.

Supporters of the constitutional amendment say it would give potential charter schools an option to launch if hesitant local districts unfairly lock them out. School boards are supposed to approve any charters that meet state requirements, backers of the legislation say, but often take other factors — perhaps even a fear of competition — into account.

“This would certainly eliminate the situation we have now where we have the analogy of McDonald’s approving where Burger King can open up a franchise,” said Rep. Manny Diaz, the Hialeah Republican sponsoring the measure.

But opponents slammed the proposal as a way to get around the local control of school districts. Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, compared it to lawyers who try to file claims in the friendliest courts.

“I think it’s forum-shopping. … You get to choose who your own judge is, and I don’t think that’s right,” Geller said.

The amendment, which has been moving slowly in the Senate, needs the approval of a three-fifths majority of both chambers and 60 percent of the voters in a November referendum to be added to the state Constitution.

Democrats also objected to the legislation giving parents the opportunity to send their children to any schools in the state that haven’t reached capacity, as defined by local districts. The legislation would also allow parents to ask for their children to be transferred out of teachers’ classrooms.

Backers of the bill say it would give new options to parents whose children might be in attendance zones for subpar public schools.

“If there are openings in some schools that are excellent schools, let that child, let that student have a chance to have a better education,” said Rep. Mike Bileca, R-Miami.

But even with state funding for each child going to the local districts that would receive the transfers, some lawmakers worried that the bill could raise financial issues. Rep. Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville, said some districts approve sales taxes to help pay for school expenses — taxes that wouldn’t be paid by the parents from another county who send their children to a school.

“If folks are flooding in from other counties, I think there’s a fairness issue,” Fullwood said.

–News Service of Florida

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4 Responses for “Proposal Would End Local Districts’ Oversight of Charter Schools in Favor Of State Power”

  1. Flatsflyer says:

    Every crook in Florida will be opening a Charter School and the criminals in Tallahassee will be giving them their blessing. The corruption in Charter Schools is well documented, inflated grades, poor performance and lack of accountability. Now the Criminals want us to pay for this with less accountability. Why don’t they just take all the Lottery monies and give it to the crooks who own Charter Schools.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The second issue is that this idea is being pushed forward by people who lied to us and told us “We want a smaller government, a less intrusive government, a less powerful government!” We got what we deserved. The legislature is charged with creating “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools” and now we are getting yet another “statewide entity!”

    CONSTITUTION
    OF THE
    STATE OF FLORIDA
    AS REVISED IN 1968 AND SUBSEQUENTLY AMENDED

    ARTICLE IX
    EDUCATION

    SECTION 1. Public education.—
    (a) The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require.

  3. Knightwatch says:

    Folks, what we’ve got here is blatant Republican hypocrisy and anti-public education ideology being foisted on local school systems. Republicans decry any federal “mandates” in education, but when it comes to promoting and protecting faith-based charter schools, state mandates are just fine.

    If this egregious attempt to control local school board prerogatives ever comes up for citizen approval, we need to loudly and firmly reject it. We have a county school board and we pay its members well to work out issues related to charter schools. Let’s keep our local educational system under local control.

  4. Sherry says:

    WHY? WHY? WHY? Should “charter” AKA “private” schools be treated differently than “public” schools? WHY is state government over-reaching into the decisions that should remain with local school boards?

    Our horrific “tea party” governor says he is against big government . . . out of one side of his mouth. . . all the while amassing power within his “state government” control! Oh, I get it. . . he only wants smaller government for “others”. . . but when it come to his own control and influence, that should be limitless! What a hypocritical crock!

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