Rick Scott: Time for a school choice and competition summit

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants a summit to “discuss ways to remove barriers to choice options in low performing areas,” according to a draft of his education plans for the next legislative session. Posted on the Gradebook blog this morning, the draft offers a few more details about the governor’s proposals than today’s story did, but not much. Page 5 deals with school choice, and includes these pieces:

Incentives for educational choice options

Choices in education are critical to ensuring that every student has access to high quality learning opportunities that will prepare them for college and careers. Florida has partnered with the Charter School Growth Fund to develop and support high quality operators that can open new charter schools and establish turnaround options for chronically failing schools in high need areas. To ensure all parents and students have the ability to choose what is right to them, Florida should also remove any enrollment caps on existing charter schools, so that results and capacity can determine enrollment. This flexibility also comes with a responsibility for Florida to work to make sure that all charter schools  participate in the school grading system that has made Florida a leader in educational opportunity. To further the state’s investment in choice, Governor Scott will be asking stakeholders to come together for a Choice and Competition Summit to discuss ways to remove barriers to choice options in low performing areas.

District Charter Innovation Schools

Like other public schools, charter schools are held to assessment and accountability standards to reinforce student achievement. Unlike traditional schools, however, charter schools have flexibility to determine their own curriculum, instructional strategies and educational focus. To increase and incentivize more competition and choice options for students and parents, districts that currently sponsor a charter school should be given the ability to open District Charter Innovation Schools that could be operated by the district with the same funding levels. This increased competition and choice for students and parents will drive continued success for our students.

The state’s partnership with the Charter School Growth Fund is a spinoff from its Race to the Top application. The state kicked in $20 million from the $700 million it received through the federal grant program, the cornerstone of President Obama’s education agenda. The fund pledged to raise another $10 million. The Miami Herald wrote a brief story about the program almost a year ago, and The Gradebook interviewed Darryl Cobb, who leads the fund. The Gradebook noted in February that there wasn’t much activity yet.

Just a few minutes ago, the News Service of Florida reported additional comments from Scott today about his ed plans:

Scott also confirmed earlier reports that he plans to push for ending a limit on enrollment in charter schools statewide, and will make school choice a major underpinning of his education agenda.

“Let’s create more options for parents,” Scott said. “Let’s allow school districts to do their own charters so we have more options for students and their parents. I think with more options we’ll have a better education system.”  

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at rmatus@stepupforstudents.org or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at facebook.com/redefinedonline.