LWV of FLORIDA – Position on Charter Schools

This position was developed from a study conducted in 2013 and is based on the constitutional construct of charter schools and their role in a uniform, high quality school system of free public schools as stated in the Florida Constitution . The league recognizes first and foremost that is a paramount duty of the state to provide for education and that charter schools are established as public schools and funded by the public and accountable to the public.

The locally elected school board is constitutionally established to provide oversight and direction to the educational system in each district. The school board should have the authority and the responsibility to require fiscal, management and procedural accountability and enforcement of charter terms and conditions. The requirement of local school districts to authorize and oversee a parallel educational organization may require more funding than currently provided in legislation and a clarification of authority regarding enforcement of charter provisions.

PURPOSE:

The purpose of charter schools is to serve unmet needs and to offer innovative instructional methods. Local needs are best identified by the local school district as part of its strategic plan. To avoid inefficiency through duplicative programs or to have insufficient funding for either program to be successful, charter schools should serve as a complement to not a competitor of traditional public schools.

MANAGEMENT:

Charter schools operate under contract to public school districts. Since they are public schools, management structures and requirements should be similar. Both traditional and charter public schools need to have flexibility to develop schedules and curricula. The community is best served if the compensation for instructional personnel is within a maximum and minimum guideline within the district to assure quality of personnel and retention in the classroom.

A public charter school should have local representation on the governing board, at least one community resident answerable to school parents and community and not be governed by an entity with no ties or accountability to the community it serves. Charter schools should be supervised by district staff with enforcement powers to ensure that they conform to state regulations. These regulations should include fiscal responsibilities and adherence to building code as well as school admissions and dismissal policies and procedures. This supervision may require additional funds for oversight. Public charter schools must have appropriately certified full or part time instructors on staff before applying for Exceptional Student Services funding.

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY:

Both traditional and charter public schools must report teacher turnover and student mobility rates, in addition to end of year student grade retention. Charter public schools must report financial information in a format that is adequate for comparison with other public schools, particularly regarding facilities ownership and management contracts. Teachers and administrators of ALL public schools, including charters, should meet certification and qualification levels commensurate with their duties and roles. All schools, regardless of size, should report state student assessment test scores and other accepted indicators of student achievement levels.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST:

Administrators and governing board members of all public schools, including charter, must not directly supervise or determine compensation for family members. Members of the charter schools’ governing board MUST NOT have any financial interest in the charter school. Legislators serving on education or appropriation committees must recuse themselves on votes related to charter school finance if they have any financial interest in one or more charter schools.

FACILITIES AND FUNDING:

As a recipient of public education funds charter schools should meet the procurement standards applicable to other public institutions as stated in statute and rule regarding competitive bids, purchasing of services, equipment, supplies and sites. Records of all transaction and procedures should meet all public records laws for full disclosure. Charter schools that acquire their facilities using public funds must assure that the facility reverts to public ownership at termination of the charter. If the facility is subject to a mortgage, the mortgage must disclose and protect the public’s interest in the facility. A conversion of an existing public school to a public charter school should only be authorized by the local governing school board retaining full public ownership of the facility and the assets associated with the school. A public charter school may be housed in a religious institution so long as secular identity is maintained and the student body reflects broad racial/ethnic/religious and economic diversity

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