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Aaron Sharockman
By Aaron Sharockman May 9, 2011

High-performing charter schools could expand up to 15 percent per year under bill headed to Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott ran on a platform of expanding education choices for students and parents. So it should be no surprise that he supports privately run, but publicly funded charter schools.

During the campaign, Scott promised to try to make it easier for successful charter schools to grow.

"We would propose legislation to develop a new classification of differentiated charter schools: High Performing Charter Schools," Scott said on his campaign website. "These would be charter schools that have excelled both academically and operationally. We would provide greater operational flexibility, expedited approval processes and flexibility in enrolling students."

The Republican-led Legislature gave him exactly what he asked for.

SB 1546, sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher, R-St.Augustine, makes it easier to set up and expand charter schools and erodes school district oversight.

Under the proposal, school districts would have to grant 15-year contracts to "high-performing" charter schools — schools that receive an "A" or "B" grade from the state for the past three years and are not in financial trouble, reports the Miami Herald's Patricia Mazzei.

Charter schools with the new designation would be allowed to add new grade levels and increase their enrollment by up to 15 percent a year. Charter school systems would be able to establish a new school in any district in the state if the new school would "replicate" one of its existing schools.

Supporters note that 37,000 students were turned away after entering charter school admission lotteries, and that 97 percent of those children were on a waiting list for an "A" or "B" charter school. "This bill simply gives them an opportunity," Thrasher said. The House version was sponsored by Rep. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland.

The House passed the measure 87-27 on May 4, 2011; the Senate followed the same day 33-6.

The charter school expansion meshes almost perfectly with what Scott promised. Expecting he'll sign the legislation, this is a Promise Kept.

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