TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Charter schools would be required to put management information on websites under a wide-ranging bill that cleared the Florida House on Friday, but opponents criticized a provision that would exempt charters from some public school reporting requirements.
The legislation (HB 903) also will allow colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools.
Rep. Janet Adkins, a Fernandina Beach Republican who is sponsoring the bill, said she wants to promote charter schools because they give parents more choices about how their children are educated.
“We have to move away from an education system that is focused on the institution and not on the student,'' Adkins said.
Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, said the bill continues to give charters an unfair advantage over traditional public schools by exempting them from reporting teachers' evaluations to the Florida Department of Education. Bullard, who debated against the bill, also noted it does not require state approval for charters' evaluation plans.
Charters are considered public schools and receive taxpayer funding. The difference is they are not run by elected school boards but by other entities, including for-profit management companies.
“What is it that we're running from?'' Bullard said. “If we agree that they are in fact public schools why not hold them to the same standards?''
Adkins said 250 charters participating in the state's federally funded Race to the Top grant program, which includes a focus on teacher merit pay, will have to comply with the same reporting requirements as regular public schools. She said requiring all charters to report would present a workload problem for the department.
The bill passed the Republican-controlled House on a largely partisan 86-30 vote. It next goes to the Senate where a similar measure (SB 1852) is awaiting final committee action with just a week left in the 2012 legislative session.
A key difference is that the Senate version includes a provision that would require school districts to share with charters local option tax revenue earmarked for construction, building maintenance and other capital outlay. That requirement is not in the House bill.
Adkins' bill would require charters to maintain a website or online links to information about any entity that owns, operates, or manages the school, including fees the school pays to such a firm or organization.
It also gives charters greater autonomy in spending federal funding and sets standards for evaluating high-performing charters.
Other provisions clarify the extent to which charters must comply with state law on teacher pay, performance evaluation, and contracting.
Charters that predominantly serve students with disabilities and meet accreditation and financial requirements would get certain advantages.