A new charter school bill gets its first committee hearing today in Tallahassee.
This one is different from other charter school proposals for two big reasons:
- It allows districts to operate their own version of a charter school, instead of the school being operated by an outside entity.
- A popular Democrat is behind it.
The Florida Innovation Zone Schools Act is sponsored by panhandle Sen. Bill Montford, the CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.
Montford is a long time educator who has a middle school in Tallahassee named after him.
His bill frequently uses the term “innovation schools” instead of charters.
“The purpose of an innovation school is to utilize innovation and enhance high academic achievement and accountability in exchange for flexibility and exemptions from specific statutes,” according to an analysis by legislative staff.
Among other things, the bill says an innovation school:
- Operates as a public school of parental choice
- Uses current technology to prepares students for a career or post-secondary education
- Provides each student with a personalized learning plan
- Provides a parent with information for each year spent in the innovation school regarding the child’s educational progress, reading grade level, and performance toward achieving common core standards
- Has a theme or academic focus that is based on innovation and is unique in the district
- Offers specialized programs and created innovative learning approaches in a diverse environment
- Could operate as a virtual school
Eligible school districts must be “high-performers,” meaning they’ve received a “B” grade or higher over the last three years and have no “F” schools.
They also must meet other requirements, like having at least 20 percent of their students in public school choice programs or at least 5 percent of them in charter schools.
Districts would apply to the State Board of Education to operate an innovation school under a five-year contract.
Buildings used for these types of schools would get the same tax breaks as traditional schools, but class size would be calculated on a school wide basis instead of per class.
The Senate Education Committee held a workshop on the proposal a couple of weeks ago. This afternoon, the committee plans to take a vote on it.