Integrity Florida is releasing a new in-depth report, examining the growth of the charter school sector in Florida and the impact it is having on the state’s public education system as a whole.
The number of for-profit charter schools continues to grow at a rapid pace each year and now makes up nearly half of all charter schools in the state. In this report, Integrity Florida pulls back the veil to take a comprehensive look at what’s really behind the charter school phenomena.
“Floridians and elected officials need to think about where this is heading and whether we’ll end up with a parallel, duplicative education system or a unified system as the constitution requires,” said Alan Stonecipher, Research Associate for Integrity Florida.
Charter schools were originally proposed as teacher-run schools that would use innovative techniques to be shared with traditional schools. Over time, the concept changed to set up a competitive relationship between charters and traditional schools rather than a cooperative one.
“Florida is averaging almost twenty charter school closures per year and that comes with a cost to taxpayers,” said Ben Wilcox Integrity Florida Research Director.
Since 1998, the report finds that more than 373 charter schools have closed their doors in Florida, causing problems for some school districts. Local school boards have seen reduced ability to manage the schools in their districts.
“Lax regulation of charter schools has created opportunities for corporate profiteering, financial mismanagement, fraud and criminal corruption,” said Wilcox.
The legislature has modified the original Florida charter school law significantly over the years to encourage creation of new charters, increase the number of students in charter schools and to enhance funding of charters, sometimes at the expense of traditional schools.
“The charter school industry has spent an increasing amount on campaign contributions and lobbyists, giving them significant influence in the political process,” said Brad Ashwell, Integrity Florida Research Associate. “They also benefit from deep financial ties to lawmakers,” added Ashwell.
The charter school industry has spent more than $13 million since 1998 to influence state education policy through contributions to political campaigns. The charter school industry has spent more than $8 million in legislative lobbying expenditures since 2007 to influence education policy. Some public officials who decide education policy and their families are profiting personally from ownership and employment with the charter school industry, creating the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Integrity Florida offers a series of key findings and policy options:
Key Findings Include:
- Charter schools were originally proposed as teacher-run schools that would use innovative techniques to be shared with traditional schools. Over time, the concept changed to set up a competitive relationship between charters and traditional schools rather than a cooperative one.
- Charter schools have largely failed to deliver the education innovation that was originally promised and envisioned.
- Since 1998, at least 373 charter schools have closed their doors in Florida.
- Lax regulation of charter schools has created opportunities for financial mismanagement and criminal corruption.
- Local school boards have seen reduced ability to manage charter schools in their districts.
Policy Options to Consider Include:
- Inasmuch as charter schools can be an inefficient and wasteful option for “school choice,” the legislature should evaluate the appropriate amount of funding the state can afford to offer in educational choices to parents and students.
- Require for-profit companies associated with charter schools to report their expenditures and profits for each school they operate.
- Require charter schools to post on their website their original application and charter contract along with their annual report, audit and school grade.
- Charter school websites should include lease agreements, including terms and conditions and who profits from the lease payments.
- Give local school boards more tools to manage the charter schools in their districts, including greater contractual oversight and the ability to negotiate charter contracts.
- Increase education funding to sufficiently fund all public schools to eliminate competition between traditional schools and charter schools for inadequate public education dollars.
- Prohibit charter schools from using public education funds for advertising to attract new students.
- Limit the amount of public funds that can be used for charter school facility leases to a certain percentage of the school’s operating budget.
- Require charter schools to report annually the number of dropouts, the number of withdrawals and the number of expulsions.
Read the full report here.
Integrity Florida is a nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog whose mission is to promote integrity in government and expose public corruption. More information at integrityflorida.org.