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State lawmaker Manny Diaz. Image via Phil Sears.

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Manny Diaz files pair of bills aimed at charter school operation

Diaz chairs the Senate Education Committee.

Sen. Manny Diaz is introducing a pair of bills dealing with the state’s charter school system.

The first measure (SB 526) would temporarily bar certain individuals from opening a charter school if they were involved in a charter school that had been shut down.

“Current law will force the closure of the school,” Diaz said.

“But what we’re trying to prevent is these individuals from then forming another organization under another name and coming back and trying to apply. We don’t feel that there are enough specifics in the statute now to prevent that.”

The Diaz bill would apply to charter schools terminated due to poor student performance, fiscal issues, legal violations or other instances of “good cause.” It would also cover schools that shut down within a year, unless that’s due to the school consolidating with another school.

In those instances, “the charter school applicant, owner, president, superintendent, principal, governing board members, and the relatives of the applicant, owner, president, superintendent, principal, or governing board member may not submit an application to open a charter school in this state … for a period of 5 years after the charter is not renewed or is terminated.”

That bar goes from five years to 10 years if “a charter school applicant, owner, president, superintendent, principal, or a member of a charter school governing board, a charter management organization, or an education management organization is convicted of a crime, including, but not limited to, fraud or financial offenses related to the operation of a charter school.”

That 10-year clock would start ticking with a conviction.

“This is where there’s been issues that are clear-cut, and financial issues, where we clearly don’t want these people operating schools,” Diaz explained.

“And so this is an attempt to give superintendents and districts more teeth to be able to prevent those people from coming back in.”

Diaz, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, also has a measure (SB 536) he says will “streamline” the process for high-performing charter schools to expand.

The bill would set up a High-Performing Charter School Council, appointed by the Education Commissioner. That panel will be made up of “a sufficient number of members to the council to ensure a fair and impartial review of applications” from those schools.

The council would then review expansion applications ” received on or before February 1 of each calendar year for charter schools to be opened 18 months later at the beginning of the school district’s school year.”

The body would then approve or reject those applications “no later than 30 calendar days after the final application is received, unless the council and the applicant mutually agree in writing to temporarily postpone the vote to a specific date.”

“These are not Schools of Hope situations,” Diaz noted.

“These are areas where they may be middle-of-the-road, where they don’t qualify for anything under Schools of Hope. And so it just allows charters to be able to use a streamlined process.”

Both measures, if successful, would take effect on July 1, 2020.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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