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Charter School Conversion Bill: Florida Public School Advocates Keep Close Eye on It

The Charter School Conversion Bill allows municipalities and other organizations to apply for charter school conversions, with district school boards, principals, teachers, parents, and advisory councils currently reserving authority.

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Charter School Conversion Bill: Municipalities are now eligible to apply for charter school conversions as well as other organizations. According to state law, district school boards, principals, teachers, parents, and/or the school advisory council currently reserve this authority.

The decision requires majority agreement from school-employed instructors and a minimum of 50% support from the electors.

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Although the proposal gives municipalities the authority to initiate the conversion process, it does not require the approval of teachers.

Deputy executive director of Families for Strong Public Schools, Damaris Allen, stated that the measure stripped local control over a matter that could have “devastating ripple effects” on families and communities.

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It should require buy-in from parents and, in my opinion, community members, especially those with children on the path to attend the schools, to change a public school in a community.

Allen noted that, in contrast to conventional public schools, charter schools are not obligated to admit every local pupil who enrolls.

Allen states that public schools welcome all students, so if charter schools reject them, they must attend another public school.

She stated that, if passed, the measure could place public schools in greater jeopardy. The measure allows municipalities to submit a unified application for conversion, which can include all schools within the city’s jurisdiction.

“Kids could potentially lose the ability to attend their neighborhood school,” indicated Allen.

Alex Andrade, the bill’s sponsor, stated that it permits municipalities to participate in the conversion process only during a subcommittee meeting.

23 of the state’s 726 charter schools were previously traditional public schools that became charter schools.

Allen expressed uncertainty about the sponsor’s proposal of a bill to resolve a local issue through state legislation. However, she did warn that the proposed change could inadvertently affect school districts and families throughout the state.

Allen stated that a family can acquire a property with the specific intention of enrolling their child in a specific school. Altering the school may also affect property values.

“Because great schools mean that it’s a competitive real estate market,” commented Allen.

School districts must also provide vacant buildings to charter schools in cases where enrollment declines by more than 1%. Additionally, the charter school must offer the property as affordable accommodation if it no longer needs it within six months.

Although affordable housing is necessary, Allen questions whether the legislation applies to all communities. “At that moment, is that what the community requires?”

It has been approved along party lines by the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee. A comparable bill is presently under deliberation in the Senate.

Since the end of the pandemic, charter school enrollment has grown, whereas traditional public school enrollment has declined.

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