Florida rolls out welcome mat for Success Academy

The renowned New York charter school operator Success Academy moved a step closer to opening new schools in Florida, as the state Board of Education approved it as the state’s sixth Hope operator.

The designation, created by the 2017 Schools of Hope legislation, allows nationally recognized charter networks with a proven record of raising student achievement to receive startup funding and a streamlined approval process to open schools in areas with low-performing schools or high levels of economic disadvantage.

The network would still have to submit a notice of intent and enter a charter agreement with a school district before it can open schools. If it takes that step, this would be Success’s first schools outside New York.

Success founder Eva Moskowitz told board members that Florida’s charter-friendly policies were a major reason why the network considering a Sunshine State expansion.

“I have been doing this in a rather hostile political environment, and one of the things that I’m so impressed with [in Florida] is a desire for innovation and really leading the country,” she said. “This nation needs this kind of innovation, particularly for our poorest and most vulnerable children.”

Success’s credentials are not in doubt. The network is known for serving predominantly low-income student populations that stun the state with their high test scores and college-going rates.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. helped pass legislation that created the Schools of Hope Program.

“This is exactly what we were envisioning, to have a charter network to come in and serve those populations that are in need of this kind of academic rigor, this performance,” he said. “Over the next decade, hopefully we’re going to look back and remember this instance where we changed the lives of so many students.”

Board of Education members said they were happy to roll out the welcome mat.

“I think they’re going to have greater success in Florida, because they’re going to have a willing partner at the state level,” Chairman Ben Gibson said.

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BY Travis Pillow

Travis Pillow is Director of Thought Leadership at Step Up For Students and editor of NextSteps. He lives in Sanford, Fla. with his wife and two children. A former Tallahassee statehouse reporter, he most recently worked at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research organization at Arizona State University, where he studied community-led learning innovation and school systems' responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. He can be reached at tpillow (at) sufs.org.

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