Charter school bills fall short in 2012 legislative session, movement continues

By | 03.12.12 | 2:11 pm

Pic by kevin dooley, via Flickr

Despite the sound defeat of two ambitious, GOP-sponsored education bills during Florida’s 2012 legislative session, charter school lobbyists are vowing to be back next year.

The Parent Trigger bill would have allowed parents of students attending a failing public school to petition the school district to implement a turn-around option, which included converting the school to a charter school (most likely run by a for-profit company.)

Another bill concerning charter schools would have authorized each district school board in the state “to share revenue generated by its capital outlay millage levy with charter schools on a per-student” basis. During the session, opponents argued that public school districts do not have capital outlay dollars to share with charter schools.

The Parent Trigger bill, which passed in the House, was defeated in the Senate, while the Charter Schools bill did not make it out of committee in either chamber.

The Miami Herald reports Monday, “The defeats came as a stinging surprise for the charter movement, which had enjoyed a string of victories in previous legislative sessions. Just last year, state lawmakers gave high-performing charter schools the green light to grow more rapidly — and pay less in administrative fees.”

The Herald adds that “the charter school lobby brought out its A-team” made up of former Florida education commissioner and former Sen. Jim Horne, “former Senate President Ken Pruitt, former Rep. Ralph Arza, former Sen. Al Lawson, and others.”

The Florida Independent has reported that organizations which lobbied to support the Parent Trigger and Charter Schools bills include the Florida Charter School Alliance, Florida Coalition of Public School Options, Foundation for Excellence in Education, Foundation for Florida’s Future, Students First, Parent Revolution, The Heartland Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council. Though it claims to be “bi-partisan,” ALEC has political and financial ties with conservative, pro-market groups and the Republican party.

The Florida Charter School Alliance board of directors includes Jim Horne, president of the Horne Group; John Kirtley, the Florida corporate tax credit scholarship program founder; and the executive director of former gov. Jeb Bush’s education foundation, Patricia Levesque.

All of these organizations support the 2012 National School Choice Week, an event that advocates and promotes charter schools, private schools, virtual schools, homeschooling, school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs.

From the Herald:

“We got the policy part debated,” said former Sen Jim Horne, who lobbies for several charter school management companies. “Did we want to take it to the finish line? Of course we did. But the important thing is that we elevated the discussion, and we’ll be back next year.”

Organizations opposed to pro-charter school bills include the Florida Education Association, the Florida PTA, Fund Education Now, Education Matters and Marions United for Public Education.

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