Florida's Schools of Hope: Will They Stand?

As we have discussed schools managing their budgets with less and less funds, another high-profile case has emerged in Florida.

Florida recently passed a law that enacts several changes within its education system.  The most controversial aspect of this law centers around the operation of charter schools and “Schools of Hope.”

A “School of Hope,” as designated by this law, is a charter school that serves students in areas where there are one or more persistently low-performing traditional public schools.  The School of Hope must be located within the attendance zone of the traditional public school or within a 5-mile radius.

The challenge with this program is that these charter schools will also have access to money raised from local taxes to help with the costs associated with school construction needs, etc.

This appears to be set up in the form of a loan program, but critics say that this money effectively takes away available resources from traditional public schools.  

School districts have complained that being forced to share this money with charter schools, in this way, will impede their ability to do maintenance and construction in their schools, over time.  Moody’s reportedly issued a statement that the diversion of funds is “credit negative” for school districts that have high charter school enrollments.

Several school systems have decided to sue, alleging that the new law gives charter schools unfair advantages over traditional schools by giving them less restrictions, while, at the same time, giving them access to taxpayer funds.

Broward County would have to share about $12 million, potentially, and Miami-Dade County might have to share $23.2 million (potentially), in 2017 -2018 alone.

Several school systems have indicated that they believe this new law violates Florida’s constitution and that it restricts the ability of local school boards to operate and control their own schools. 

Furthermore, the Schools of Hope program will offer 25 “failing traditional schools” about $2,000 per student to provide additional wraparound services to support their efforts.  That would amount to about $44.5 million, according to one report, but the money offered to charter schools under this program, would be $95.5 million.

This debate is sure to make national headlines, as Florida is seen as a model for school choice and other states have adopted measures implemented in Florida in the past.

We hope to follow the outcome of this challenge.

 

© 2017, Red and Black Ink, LLC.

References:

Clark, Kristen.  “Broward Schools to sue over controversial new schools law.”  Miami Herald.  July 5, 2017.  Accessed July 30, 2017.

Clark, Kristen.  “Will Miami-Dade join lawsuit over education?  An answer could come this week.”  Miami-Herald.  July 25, 2017.

CS/HB 7069: Education. The Florida Senate.  Effective Date: 7/1/2017.  Accessed July 30, 2017.

Strauss, Valerie.  “Florida’s education system—the one Betsy DeVos sites as a model—is in chaos.”  Washington Post.  July 22, 2017.

Danita Smith