Decades of efforts to create a new path for Florida charter schools have finally come to fruition.
The state Board to Education voted today to appoint a seven-member state Charter School Review Commission.
Prospective charter schools will be able to apply to the commission instead of a local school board. The commission will work with a new state Charter School Institute to review their applications.
Since Florida passed its charter school law in 1996, charter schools have had no choice but to apply to countywide school boards for permission to open. Past attempts to create statewide charter school authorizers, like the boards that approve schools in Massachusetts or New Jersey, have been struck down by courts that held Florida’s constitution gives school districts exclusive control over all public schools within their borders.
This has created dysfunction. Local school boards have thrown up roadblocks to new charter schools trying to open. District leaders frequently complain overseeing charter schools can be a burdensome task and that state law gives them little discretion to decide whether a charter school is the right fit for their community.
The state’s education commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr., has been working to overhaul Florida’s approach to charter school authorizing for more than a decade, going back to his time in the Legislature. Over the years, the controversy around creating a statewide charter authorizer has faded.
“I think it’s a huge deal,” he said of the commission. “The charter movement has gained so much success that it’s become kind of mainstream.”
Charter schools approved by the new commission will still need to enter charter contracts with their local school districts, who will administer their funding and receive authorizing fees provided in state law.
Districts will also have a chance to weigh in on applications that come before the commission, but the commission will take much of the work of reviewing and vetting charter school applications off their plate.
Florida has also created a second, more limited alternative route to authorizing new charter schools: The state’s 28 community colleges can authorize charter schools designed to help meet workforce needs.
Members of the new commission will serve staggered terms, so three of the seven appointees will initially serve for two years.
The following members are appointed to four-year terms:
Dan Foganholi, District 5 Representative, Broward County School Board
John-Anthony (Jay) Boggess, Superintendent of Palm Beach Christian Academy, former Chief of Staff, Palm Beach County School District
Sara Clements, State Government Relations, McGuire Wood Consulting, former Florida Legislative Affairs Director, Foundation for Excellence in Education
Suzanne Legg, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dayspring Academy, Pasco County
The following members are appointed to two-year terms:
Jim Murdaugh, President, Tallahassee Community College
Rudolfo (Rudy) Rodriguez, former Executive Director, Florida Schools of Excellence Commission, current audit and budget advisor to Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Frank Mingo, former Vice Mayor, Miami Lakes