The Florida Board of Education last week granted the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission the new power to authorize charter schools in almost every district in the state. Bravo. Authorizing in Florida had, until now, been the domain exclusively of local school boards. But after the Excellence Commission's creation last year, those school boards had to apply to keep their exclusive authorizing powers. And only three were judged worthy of doing so. The Florida Board of Education explained the change by noting that most districts were unfair to charter school applicants. St. Lucie County's application process, for example, did not respect charter school autonomy--it mandated school dates and how charters would handle student discipline, testing, and grading. Such autonomy-sapping behavior is inexcusable, and giving the Excellence Commission new powers is a fine way to remove local politics from the chartering process. But we've learned that closing bad charter schools is a lot easier said than done, and that it makes sense for authorizers to rigorously evaluate each charter school application. One hopes that the commission's name reflects exactly what it will demand from all applicants.
"Broward, Palm Beach boards stripped of total control over charter schools," by Rhonda J. Miller and Akilah Johnson, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, October 18, 2007
"Districts lose sole charter control," by Cara Fitzpatrick and Rachel Simmonsen, Palm Beach Post, October 18, 2007