If our amendments to the 2004 Parent Empowerment Law 12002.33 3 (b) are not addressed and proposed in legislation this coming 2014 session, momentum will be lost and our effort to change the deficient law will be in vain. This law as presently written denies the civil liberties of proponents seeking a ballot initaitive to convert to a Governing School in Florida. It portents an onslaught of initiatives by the advocates of status quo to continue on their misguded ways to reform the the public education system instead of reineventing the public system.
“I think charter schools are there to serve the needs that the (traditional) public school system can’t,” Clemens said. “If they’re just going to do the same thing that we’re doing in public schools then I think it is a poor use of our tax resources.”
Charter schools receive taxpayer dollars but have private governing boards. There are nearly 600 of them in the state, some operated by private nonprofit companies, with an enrollment of more than 203,000 students.
“Who would set the parameters of what is needed?” said Lynn Norman-Teck, spokeswoman for the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools after the bill was read to her. Norman-Teck expressed reservations about its language, saying there are numerous reasons why a parent may choose a charter school in addition to a specialized curriculum.
“I understand the thinking behind the bill but you have to look at the bigger picture,” Norman-Teck said. “A charter school may have a completely unique educational program but then there are schools that follow the same curriculum as the district and you ask, ‘But what is different?’ It may be smaller classes, it may be a uniform policy, it might be closer to where a parent works. The bill doesn’t address the parameters a parent uses when picking a charter.”
Charter schools control their own finance and supporters of traditional public schools see them as a financial drain on public education. Clemens expressed some of that frustration. Florida lawmakers the past three sessions appropriated more than $200 million in school construction and maintenance money for charters compared with $20 million (in 2013) for public schools.
“If those monies are going to charter schools that are serving a completely different need than public schools then that is a good thing,” said Clemens, quickly reciting three charters in his district meeting specific needs for the school district. “(But) if they are essentially doing the same thing as public schools are, I find that to be a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. I want to make sure that we are focusing on meeting additional needs rather than doing the same thing.”
SB 452 has yet to be assigned to any committees. Clemens said if it fails to gain any traction he will try to amend the language onto a bill addressing charter school accountability.
Related Research: Florida Statute Chapter 1002.33 - Charter Schools.Reporter James Call can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.