Charter schools win contract victory


TALLAHASSEE, Fla.Legislation to create a standardized contract between charter schools and local school districts cleared a divided state House Tuesday, passing over the objections of most school boards.

Florida created charter schools in 1996. They remained public schools funded by state dollars. The legislation debated in the state House would now take away bargaining power for local districts that must approve those charter schools. And charter schools who receive a failing grade two years in a row would be closed automatically under the legislation.

"All 67 school districts in the state of Florida do not like this bill," said Rep. Mark Danish.

Every teacher who is also a legislator voted against the charter change.

"All the school boards are down on it, all the superintendents are down on it and a lot of charter schools are down on it," Rep. Carl Zimmerman said.

Five Republicans have joined Democrats in opposing the bill. But Rep. Janet Adkins, who supports the bill, said the legislation will force unfriendly school districts to approve charters.

"It's about the students," Adkins said. "It's about making sure the parents have that choice to make those decisions for their students." 

The legislation allows out-of-state companies to come in and be judged by their out-of-state performance, and it allows charters to begin operating while they're still negotiating with school districts.

Teacher and state Rep. Karen Castor Dentel said the change will neuter local decision makers.

"It will take all the decision away from the local school boards," Dentel said. "They won't be able to negotiate their own contracts."

The legislation must still clear the state Senate, where it will face a much closer vote.