Florida panel approves proposed charter district ballot measure

By Troy Kinsey, Capitol Bureau Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, February 02, 2018, 7:53 PM EST

A key panel of the powerful Florida Constitution Revision Commission on Friday approved a proposed ballot measure that would allow high-performing school districts to convert themselves into 'charter districts.'

  • Panel approves proposed charter district ballot measure
  • Would allow high-performing districts to become 'charter districts'
  • Charter schools don't have to adhere to strict state curricula

The districts would be exempt from the same list of state mandates privately-run charter schools are currently free to ignore.

The measure's supporters say it would bring parity to a state education system that is becoming increasingly charter school-friendly.

The 2017 'Schools of Hope' law championed by Tallahassee's Republican leaders, for example, directs more taxpayer funding to new charter operators in areas served by underperforming traditional schools.

"This proposal is the one proposal that actually gives some flexibility to the traditional public schools and provides, in my opinion, more of an equal playing ground for traditional public schools that serve almost 90 percent of our students," said Constitution Revision Commissioner Nicole Washington

Washington voted for the proposal during Friday's meeting of the CRC's Local Government Committee.

Unlike traditional public schools, charters do not have to adhere to strict curricula designed by the state to prepare students for standardized tests.

That flexibility, charter school advocates have argued, has resulted in test results that have generally outstripped those of students attending traditional schools.

The measure approved Friday could help districts compete more effectively with the newly-emboldened charters, but critics warned it could also result in the elimination of services, like dual enrollment programs and district-provided transportation, many students and parents have come to depend on.

"The nuances of differences between those laws that are in place now that apply to (charter) schools individually versus wholesale applying all of those laws to full districts by constitutional provision, I believe, is very problematic," said Commissioner Erika Donalds, who voted against the plan.

If the measure is approved by the full commission, it would appear on Florida's November ballot, requiring the support of at least 60 percent of voters to pass.