Florida republican legislators are using predictable – and false – talking points to justify their latest charter school reform bill. Erin Kourkounis reports in the Tampa Tribune:
…Three changes set for consideration in the state Legislature would inject the Florida Department of Education into a process now largely controlled at the school district level.
The proposals would require a review of all charter school applications by the state, establish a standard contract to replace those in use among the state’s 67 districts, and make available to charter school operators certain public school rooms that are not in use.
Some state lawmakers say local districts may be holding back the innovation charter schools were intended to foster.
“We’re trying to streamline the process so it’s an even playing field,” said state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., a Hialeah Republican who serves on the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee. “The districts have concern they may be losing control over the process, but they’re not. If they have any contention with the charter school application, it should be brought up in the review process.”
Emphasis mine. Diaz knows this is false. And like all other Florida republican pols, he knows these bills are written because the charter school industry wanted them. Charter Schools USA CEO Jonathan Hage knows that the Duval school district is holding him accountable for the schools he opens in their district. Writes Florida Times-Union reporter Denise Smith Amos:
…..the contract to open the Mandarin school gives Duval’s School Board the ability to close that school if it receives an F on state report cards during any two of four consecutive years. The contract also requires that Duval approve of the charter school’s improvement plans and that charter students make adequate progress toward state standards and the school’s stated mission.
If the school scores three D’s, or two D’s and an F, or two F’s within a three-year period, the charter school must choose from among four options, which include reorganizing under a new principal or director or hiring new staff or letting an outside entity operate the school.
Similar requirements face traditional public schools that persistently fail.
Hage said the new contract is tougher than prior ones his company has signed in Florida, but it’s a sign of the times.
“A lot of school districts are finding that they want to be more certain that if charter schools are … failing that they’ll have stronger leverage to shut them down,” Hage said.
“Generally we support that. We don’t want schools to be continually failing. … But schools like Arlington, where we’ve struggled, those schools should be given some reasonable time to get better.”
Hage obviously doesn’t want to operate under such accountability and knows that the standard contract coupled with the bill’s loosened “high-performing charter school” changes makes it easier to open buildings and keep his worse schools open. Changes such as these championed by Diaz make charter schools less accountable.
And less accountable to taxpayers, too. Republican like Diaz like to tell voters how concerned they are about taxpayers. But legislation like this further tie the hands of local school boards who are in a much better position to be custodians of taxpayer’s money.