House Representatives Toughen Up Charter Schools

Mar 19, 2015

A bill presented to the House Education Committee today strengthens the standards for Florida’s charter schools. The bill aims at solving a lot of problems in one swoop.

Credit Illinois Network of Charter Schools

Florida’s charter schools have been the subject of some dispute.

Rep. Robert Cortez (R- Maitland) put forward a bill that would overhaul how charter schools are ranked, graded and researched.

“This bill includes provisions to strengthen charter school accountability, assist applicants and authorizers in charter school application process, encourage opening only high quality charter schools, increase student access to high quality charter school and virtual school education options, and it also creates the Florida Charter School Institute,” Cortez explains to the committee.

Strengthening charter school accountability is one of the more important aspects of the bill, and meant to address a number of cases where charter schools had been established under dubious pretenses or by dubious people. It would also hold the creation of charter schools to a higher standard.

“So if you failed in Texas and Indiana, I certainly wouldn’t support you opening a school in Florida,” Sen. Nancy Detert (R- Venice) said about a similar bill posed to the Senate last week.

The bill also requires charter schools to release monthly updates, and any charter school with two consecutive F grades would be shut down.

The establishment of the Florida Charter School Institute on Florida State University’s campus was widely embraced by the committee. $1 million would go to fund the institute, which would become a research hub and assist charter schools in developing charter school application proposals.

The bill was contested by Rep. Alan Williams (D- Tallahassee) and Rep. Victor Torres (D- Orlando).

“Thank you, Representative, for this bill,” Torres said. “You have some good points on this bill, but there are concerns that need to change on this bill, and so at this time, I will not support the bill, and hopefully it’ll change by the time it gets onto the chamber floor, thank you.”

After nearly an hour of deliberation, an exhausted-sounding Cortez declined his closing statement.

“Madame Chair, I believe everything has already been said here. I wave close,” Cortez said.

There are similar ideas moving in the Senate, but the chamber has also proposed more than a dozen bills. Senate education officials are considering merging the measures into one package, as the House has done.