Favorable Vote by Constitution Revision Commission Education Committee Advances Proposal to Permit Alternative Charter School Authorizers in Florida

Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) Applauds Education Committee’s Action

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Members of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission Education Committee today voted to support a proposal by Commission member Erika Donalds to change language in the Florida Constitution that will authorize the Legislature to enact general laws providing alternative processes to authorize the establishment of charter schools.

The proposal now moves to the full Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). Proposals approved by a super-majority of the CRC, which requires 22 “yes” votes, 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.

The current system designates Florida school districts as the sole authorizers of charter schools.

The Education Committee previously heard testimony in support of alternative charter school authorizers from leaders of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS).

FCPCS President Robert Haag applauded today’s favorable vote by members of the Education Committee.

“Alternative 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 public charter schools,” said Haag. “We urge the full Commission to approve the recommendation to place the proposed amendment on November’s General Election ballot.”

During debate at today’s meeting of the Education Committee, Commissioner Patricia Levesque noted that a recent presentation by the Florida Department of Education noted that two-thirds of all charter school applications presented to Florida school boards are rejected.

Speaking in support of her proposal, Commissioner Donalds pointed to several references by speakers of the importance of local control of educational opportunities. She said, “The ultimate local control resides in your households. The point of this proposal is to allow those parents more options.” Commissioner Donalds is also Vice Chair of the Collier County School Board.

In earlier testimony to the Education Committee, 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.”

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.”

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.