Constitution Revision Commission Education Committee Hears Testimony in Support of Alternative Charter School Authorizers

Leaders of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) Testify in Tallahassee

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Members of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission Education Committee recently heard testimony in support of alternative charter school authorizers from leaders of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS).

Presenters noted multiple issues with the current system, which designates Florida school districts as the sole authorizers of charter schools, and pointed to several benefits that would come with additional authorizers.

The testimony was presented as part of a workshop to consider some of the 16 proposals submitted to the Education Committee. Proposals approved by 22 of the 37 members of the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) will be placed on Florida’s November, 2018 General Election ballot and must be approved by 60 percent of the state’s voters in order to become law.

Ruth Lynch, FCPCS Director of Grassroots Advocacy, opened the presentation on the need for alternative authorizers by noting the importance of collaboration, saying, “We all want to work together to make sure that all of our kids get a quality, good education.”

Lynch was joined at the podium by two principals of FCPCS member schools. Dr. Andrew Kinlock, Principal of Academic Solutions Academy in Sunrise, Fla., noted the growing impact of Florida charter schools and said, “There are currently 654 charter schools in Florida; we have 282,924 students. That is actually 10 percent of the student population of Florida.” Charter schools are located in 46 of Florida’s 67 counties, according to Kinlock.

Dr. Bill Jones, Principal of Manatee School for the Arts in Bradenton, Fla., said, “The main reason why we’re asking for alternative and additional authorizers really goes to the question of quality of education, both for the students and the quality of the charter school system, itself. Two of the largest national organizations, both the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, favor having multiple authorizers.”

Dr. Jones continued, “Having just one option is bad if it only involves a school board halfheartedly interested in the process. Having the school districts as the authorizers is a lot like McDonald’s telling Burger King where they can put their franchises.”

He explained, “If you were a school district, why would you want to authorize charter schools? They’re going to compete with you. They’re going to take students out of the system. They’re going to move money from one side of the ledger to the other.”

Size of the school districts sometimes inhibits the authorization of charter schools, he said. “For a lot of the small districts, this is a lot of work. When it’s done properly and done well, the oversight is significant and there are many, many small districts. They don’t have the resources. And so for them to be the sole authorizer is often very burdensome.

“Some districts just don’t want to get into the competition,” said Dr. Jones. “They enjoy the monopoly that they have. They don’t want people pointing out shortcomings. So they’re not real interested in authorizing additional schools.

“Sometimes they don’t have the time or the inclination to deal with schools that are different,” said Dr. Jones. “They often don’t understand them and they just don’t want to mess with then, so it would be very advantageous if we had additional authorizers that could take the time to look at the differences, where they could try things.”

Dr. Jones pointed to a handout presentation from the FCPCS that noted multiple authorizers will lead to additional charter schools, which will result in greater competition and an increase in the quality of all schools, both traditional public schools and charter schools.

About the Constitution Revision Commission

The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) convenes once every 20 years to examine the Florida Constitution and propose changes for voter consideration. The CRC meets for approximately one year, traveling across the State of Florida, identifying issues, performing research and possibly recommending changes to the Florida Constitution. As part of this process, the CRC holds public hearings to learn about issues that matter most to Floridians and considers proposed constitutional amendments submitted by the public.

About the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools

The Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) is the leading charter school membership association in the state, with a membership of nearly 75 percent of all operating charter schools. Since its inception in 1999, FCPCS has been dedicated to creating a national model of high quality, accredited public charter schools that are student-centered and performance-driven. FCPCS provides a wide array of technical support, mentoring, training, networking, and purchasing services to its membership, as well as serving as an advocate for all Florida public charter schools.