HB 377: George Moraitis’ Stealth Florida Charter School Bonanza Bill

On November 14 Charter Schools USA slipped $1000 to Rep. George Moraitis (R-Fort Lauderdale). Just 26 days later, Moraitis filed HB 377, a bill innocently titled Educational Facilities Financing. But its abstract signals that there are real devils in the details:

Revises provisions relating to financing of independent nonprofit higher educational facilities to include financing for private nonprofit elementary, middle, & secondary schools meeting certain criteria; revises provisions to conform

“Private, non-profit” is a sneaky way to refer to charter schools who set up non-profit buildings and charge them exorbitant management fees. Moraitis has filed another dream bill for Charter Schools USA CEO Jonathan Hage which provides a permanent funding apparatus and sets up a separate board to oversee this:

revising provisions relating to the financing of independent nonprofit higher educational facilities to include financing for  private nonprofit elementary, middle, and secondary schools meeting certain criteria; revising the short  title and findings to conform; revising definitions; renaming the facilities financing authority to  conform; revising powers of the authority, including  the issuance and payment of bonds, to conform; revising the date for submission of an annual  financial report by the authority to the Governor and Legislature

And HB 377’s intention:

It is the purpose  to provide a measure of assistance and an alternative method enabling private educational institutions in of higher education of this state to provide the facilities and  structures that they need and to enable those institutions to coordinate their budgetary needs with the timing of receipt of tuition revenue.

Moraitis fulfills Hage’s long wish for a separate board for charter schools with a provision for the “Creation of Higher Educational Facilities Financing Authority”

There is created a public body corporate and politic to be known as the Higher Educational Facilities Financing Authority. The authority is constituted as a public instrumentality, and the exercise by the authority of the powers  conferred by  is considered to be the performance of an essential public function

The authority shall consist of five members to be  appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate. One member shall be a trustee, director, officer, or  employee of a participating an institution of higher education.

The cross out were part of the draft and indicate an effort was made on Moraitis part – or whomever wrote the bill – to make sure the bill empowered “private nonprofit elementary, middle, and secondary schools meeting certain criteria;”

Notice the author of the bill were careful not to use charter schools as it would have brought earlier attention to the bill. The bill cuts local school boards,  school districts and the state BOE out of the picture. Here’s how:

Powers of the authority.—The purpose of the authority is to assist participating institutions of higher  education in constructing, financing, and refinancing projects  throughout the state, and, for this purpose, the authority may:
(1) Exercise all powers granted to corporations under the  Florida Business Corporation Act, chapter 607.

(2) Have perpetual succession as a body politic and corporate and adopt bylaws for the regulation of its affairs and the conduct of its business.
(3) Adopt an official seal and alter the same at its pleasure.
(4) Maintain an office at any place in the state that it  may designate.
(5) Sue and be sued in its own name, and plead and beimpleaded.
(6) Make and execute financing agreements, leases, as  lessee or as lessor, contracts, deeds, and other instruments  necessary or convenient in the exercise of the powers and  functions of the authority, including contracts with persons,  firms, corporations, federal and state agencies, and other  authorities, which state agencies and other authorities are  authorized to enter into contracts and otherwise cooperate with  the authority to facilitate the financing, construction,  leasing, or sale of any project or the institution of any  program; engage in sale-leaseback, lease-purchas e, lease- leaseback, or other undertakings and provide for  leaseback, or other undertakings and provide for the sale of  certificates of participation incident thereto; and enter into interlocal agreements in the manner provided in s. 163.01.
(7) Determine the location and character of any project to  be financed under ss. 243.50-243.77 and may:
(a) Construct, reconstruct, maintain, repair, and lease  the project as lessee or lessor.

Hage’s dream of a separate board to authorize charter schools is realized in Moraitis’ HB 377. It could only have been written by someone from the industry. The ramifications of this bill will suck a lot of the ed policy oxygen out of the air that would have gone to common core and accountability.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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