Small wonder Orlando Sentinel reporter Leslie Postal sounds incredulous over this latest sop to charter school operators:
Florida school districts with empty — or half empty — school buildings would be required to offer those facilities to charter schools at no cost, under a bill a House education subcomittee has proposed.
Districts (and this is the kicker for some local officials) would also have to maintain the facility once the charter was using it “at the same standard and level it would maintain any other district-operated school similar in age and condition.”
The bill is a 36 pager that deals with many aspects of Florida’s charter school law. Overall, it reads as a charter-friendly proposal, though it contains a few items that look to increase charter school accountability.
The facilities suggestion — perhaps a reaction to rezoning efforts and a previous school closing in Seminole County ? – likely will upset local School Boards. While charters are public schools, they are run by private groups (and sometimes private, for-profit companies), so board members likely will question why they’d get rent-free access to a public facility.
The proposed bill says a building that was used in the previous school year as a K-12 school but is now empty “shall be made available for a charter school’s use at no cost.”
That means, it seems, a district couldn’t close a school and then sell the building and property and use the proceeds (taxpayer money, after all) for other district needs.
Districts also would have to offer space to a charter – also at no cost — in a school that was operating at less than 50 percent capacity.
The bill is to be discussed Wednesday at a meeting of the House education subcommittee on innovation and choice
Who writes this stuff? How any fair-minded legislator can begin to think this is even remotely a good idea is beyond me. Did Postal sniff out the stealth portion of an otherwise clean piece of legislation? Maybe all that campaign cash Florida’s charters schools have been throwing around is working.