Florida House floats overhaul of state school accountability system Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writer

When the Florida House Education Committee meets Thursday, it will take up a proposal that could dramatically change the face of the state's public school system, opening it to more charter schools.

PCB EDC 17-03 aims to ramp up the intervention system for traditional schools that struggle under the state accountability and testing program. It would expand early warning requirements on student performance into elementary grades, and overhaul the responses for schools that cannot overcome the obstacles.

School districts would be directed to declare educational emergencies for schools with grades below C, allowing them to renegotiate contract terms to eliminate programs seen as standing in the way of academic improvement.

For schools facing required turnaround plans, the choice of a district-managed option -- the most popular one currently used -- would be deleted. Districts would have to choose among reassigning students to other schools, closing the campuses and reopening them as charters, or hiring an outside operator.

House lawmakers have observed that districts often overlook the remaining selections, even when they cannot improve the schools themselves. Sometimes schools do not show improvement over a decade, Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, observed.

A turnaround plan would not be required if a school improves its grade to a C, changed from current law which ends the plan if a school moves up at least one grade level.

If charter schools earn three consecutive grades below C, they also would face turnaround plans.

After setting forth these guidelines, the bill would establish a system of "success" charter schools that would serve the students in the areas with persistently low-performing traditional schools. Though working with the school districts, the success schools could be designated as a local education agency similar to districts, complete with the financial authority.

The House has proposed setting aside $200 million toward the initiative.

A district that does not enter into a performance-based contract with a success school within 60 days of receiving notification of intent to operate could lose a percentage of the administrative fees they receive from other charter schools . Districts also would have to make unused facilities available for the success schools.

The Senate has no such bill in play. But it does have ones that might be considered close enough to tie into the discussion.

Read the staff analysis for more on the densely packed 34-page House bill. See also this post from the Step Up For Students blog for another take on the proposal.

House Education meets at 9 a.m. Thursday.


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