State Legislative Priorities
Maintain the ability for charter schools to determine the best use of resources to develop, implement, and administer programs that address the educational needs of children and families.
Ensure public policy supports independent “mom and pop” charter schools because they have a Unique ability to address the needs of students and families within their communities.
Support evidence-based policies and programs to ensure healthy, educated children, stable families, and safe and supportive communities.
Ensure equitable funding for programs affecting charter school children and families that are adequate and respect regional economic differences.
Support policies that enable facility ownership of charter schools’ non-profit boards.
Maximize all available revenue streams for strategies that support public education, child development, and economic stabilization.
State Legislative Agenda - Priority Issues (2017)
Capital Outlay for Charter Schools
Public funding for capital needs for public school students should be a priority for public schools including charter schools. Charter Schools that have an "F" or Double "D" are denied funding. These law performing schools almost exclusively exist in poor communities. Denying Capital Outlay Dollars for students in poor communities is morally wrong and should not be codified. Charter School Capital Outlay should be provided to every student, especially low income students, in fact they need it even more. School performance standards for charter schools are already stringent, disallowing capital outlay for struggling schools will guarantee failure rather than supporting our most fragile students.
Proposed Policy Option: Prohibit the Department of Education from Promulgating Rules that take away funding from schools that need it the most. Add a simple line to 1013.62 which states that “Any charter school that qualifies for charter school capital outlay meeting the criteria in 2 (a)(1) and 2 (a) (2) above shall not have their capital outlay funding reduced or terminated."
Consideration of exemptions for closure of Charter Schools in Needy Areas
Charter Schools that receive an “F” in consecutive years must close unless it declares and proves an exemption in its formative years.
Proposed Policy Option: Operating in areas of low performance should be provided more opportunity to perform, not less. In addition, School Safety should also be a rubric to determine an exemption to closure in the formative years of start-up. Often parents send kids to charter schools in these areas because of safety concerns at the traditional schools. If a school is providing a safer environment than the local school, this should be a consideration when determining closure. Safety should be our first concern for our children.
Charter School Financial Reporting
Charter schools are required to report their financial and enrollment positions, with many school districts requiring them monthly. This is a burden in reporting and causes undue expense to charter schools for personnel to create these reports monthly which does not assist in any manner to the education of the students in their classrooms.
Proposed Policy Option: Charter schools should report their financial and enrollment position quarterly, provided that the school has a clean audit and in good financial position.
Expansion of Charter School Authorization
Currently in Florida, Local school districts have a monopoly on the authorization of charter schools. This process creates unnecessary friction in some school districts who are ambivalent toward charter schools. Many school districts are supportive of charter school authorization. Those district who are not , are forced into a conflict of interest.
Proposed Policy Option: Provide for additional authorizors, including public universities.`
State Legislative Agenda – Other Critical Issues
Charter School Application Process
School Districts are required to approve or deny a charter school no later than 90 days after receiving them.
Proposed Policy Option: If a school district does not comply with the law and approve or deny a charter school application within 90 days, the application should be deemed approved. Justification: School Districts in South Florida are blatantly disregarding this section. In 2015, the Governance Institute for School Accountability represented three applications in two school districts where this occurred, in each their due process rights were violated. The Governance Institute for School Accountability appealed the issue to the Charter School Appeal Commission that agreed that Due Process was violated. The Charter School Appeal Commission determined it was “Harmless Error”, even though the violations were intentional according to the school district's own admissions. The Due Process Rights of applicants are harmed by their very nature when they are violated. If these applicants were late in submitting these applications by one minute, the school districts would have refused to accept them.
Review of the District Charged Management Fee
School Districts Charge up to a 5% fee to charter schools for administrative services and educational services to charter schools. These contract management service shall include data reporting, ESE administrative services, services related to eligibility and reporting duties for school lunch program, test administrative services, costs of student assessments, processing of teachers’ certifications, access to information services, student performance data.
Proposed Policy Option: This administrative fee should be reviewed and revised, most of these services are provided to every student in a public school system. Charter schools already receive a smaller per student allocation than traditional schools. Why should they then pay for services that are mostly routine in nature? The cost does not justify the level of services.
Waiver of Administrative Fee for Charters in Critical Need Areas
Florida law allows school districts to dip into charter school funds to cover administrative costs for the district. Districts can charge up to 5% administrative fee for services. Although not mandatory, school districts uniformly charges the fee regardless of high levels of free and reduced lunch students. Waiving this 5% administrative fee would help those schools serving predominantly low income areas by increasing the amount of money for teacher compensation, instructional materials and outside consultants for those areas that the student population being served would require. Charter schools can always buy services directly from their sponsor or any other source available if they choose. Florida's Department of Education philosophically agrees, its 2016 Legislative Agenda included “High Impact Networks” designation for an entity that successfully operates a SYSTEM of charter schools that serve disadvantaged students in “Critical Needs Areas” and will not have to pay the district's administrative fee.
Proposed Policy Option: Waive the Administrative Fees across the board for Schools Add language to F.S. 1002.33 (20)(a)2 that states “the Administrative fee shall be waived for schools that serve 75% free and reduced lunch students.
Governance Training of Governing Board Members
Charter School Law requires that Governing Board Members participate in an approved Governance Training every three years.
Proposed Policy Option: Most of these trainings happen on-line and for most, it is simply a push button exercise. At least the initial 4-hour training should be live and in person. The 2-hour refresher should remain on line as an option.