Broward County pubic schools would consider operating charter schools in an effort to “stem a drop in enrollment spurred by a growing number of charter schools,” according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The Sun Sentinel adds that Broward School Board members on Tuesday “directed staffers to research three options, including converting district schools into charters, opening district-run charter schools or acting as a ‘management company.’ Under the third option, the district could be hired to help run charter schools.” The Sun Sentinel explains that “charter schools are privately run, but use tax money and aren’t subject to as many restrictions as regular public schools.”

The Broward school system ”is the sixth largest and the largest fully accredited K-12 and adult school system in the country,” with “nearly 257,000 students, 230 traditional schools and centers, 68 charter schools and one virtual school that serves elementary, middle and high school students.”

Florida Department of Education data (.pdf) shows the state ranked third in the nation in charter school enrollment in 2010-11 with 154,00 students in 459 charter schools in 43 districts.

The Sun Sentinel adds that Broward school district enrollment “has gone down each of the last five years, even though total enrollment in the county is up by 1,931 students,” while the county’s “76 charter schools enrolled 29,489 students this year, up about 6,000 over last year. More than 50 applications for new charters had been submitted as of Aug. 1, according to the district.”

The Fort Lauderdale-based company Charter Schools USA currently operates 24 charter schools in Florida and plans to open 20 more over the next few years.

Jonathan Hage, the current chairman, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA was a member of Gov. Rick Scott’s education transition team and a former director of research for Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future. He recently hosted a summit in Orlando that featured Michelle Rhee, an informal education adviser to Scott and a supporter of the tough-on-teachers brand of school reform.

Robert Runcie, a former businessman with no classroom experience, was recently selected  as Broward’s next school superintendent. He is also an alumnus of The Broad Superintendents Academy, a program of The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems; Rhee serves on the organization’s board of directors.

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