Bill filed to prevent repeat of exorbitant payout to charter school principal

The outcry over a half-million-dollar payout to the principal of a failing Florida charter school has spawned a proposed legislative remedy.


Florida Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, filed a bill this week that prevents compensation to charter school employees after the school shuts down. House Bill 373 is in direct response to the $519,000 payout an Orlando charter school principal received after her failing school closed in June.

NorthStar High School Principal Kelly Young’s final contract also entitled her to about $304,000 in salary and bonuses, netting her $824,000 in her last year, reported the Orlando Sentinel. In addition, an audit found the school paid Young’s husband $460,000 over five years for management services. The payouts shocked district and charter school officials, and prompted lawmakers, including Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, to call for more oversight of charter school spending.

Charter schools are public schools that receive state money, but operate independently of school districts. Charters have their own school boards to help manage finances and develop curriculum.

Saunders’ bill specifically states that charter school employees, service providers or vendors are not entitled to compensation after the school closes. It also calls for limiting an employee contract to the terms of the charter school contract, voiding the remainder of a contract after the school closes.

Simmons said late Tuesday he supports the bill’s intent, but hopes to file a similar one this session that includes broader language. “I want to make sure that there is the assurance that this doesn’t happen again,” he said. “But at the same time, I don’t want a knee-jerk reaction that hurts the choice and charter school movement.”

Bob Haag, president of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, said he doesn’t have an issue with the bill. But, like other charter advocates, he doesn’t think it’s necessary.

“The Inspector General should go after that particular person and that particular school, instead of creating a law that will affect 513 charter schools,’’ Haag said Tuesday.

Saunders, a freshman lawmaker, was not available for comment Tuesday. A community activist and nonprofit consultant, he serves on the House Education Committee, Higher Education & Workforce Committee and the Choice & Innovation Subcommittee.

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BY Sherri Ackerman

Sherri Ackerman is the former associate editor of redefinED. She is a former correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times and reporter for The Tampa Tribune, writing about everything from cops and courts to social services and education. She grew up in Indiana and moved to Tampa as a teenager, graduating from Brandon High School and, later, from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications/news editing. Sherri passed away in March 2016.