Charter school bill unanimously passes second House committee

charter schools
The charter school bill also passed its first committee with unanimous, bipartisan support.

A House bill putting guardrails on how charter schools are renewed unanimously passed its second committee stop Wednesday.

The measure (HB 225), sponsored by St. Cloud Republican Rep. Fred Hawkins, would require school boards to renew — or not renew —charter schools at least 90 days before the school year ends. Otherwise, the charter would renew automatically. The bill passed the House Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee with unanimous bipartisan support. No one on the committee asked questions or gave comments on the legislation.

The bill comes after the Hillsborough County School Board initially voted against renewing four schools’ charters this summer over what the board members considered poor performance. However, the vote came only 56 days before the charters were set to expire. The district ultimately renewed the charters after Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran threatened to withhold funding for the districts for what he considered a violation of a 90-day notice rule.

“Teachers were trying to find jobs. Parents are trying to find new schools for their children,” Hawkins said. “We want to prevent that.”

Public schools start working toward the next school year well in advance, Hawkins noted. If there is a problem with a charter school, districts should start addressing it with “plenty of time,” he argued.

Wednesday’s approval continues bipartisan support for the legislation. The bill passed the House Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee unanimously in December.

“This is not about whether you favor charter schools or not,” Hawkins told the Early Learning Subcommittee in December. “This is about the parents, the teachers and the students and what’s best for them.”

In the December meeting, Brandon Democratic Rep. Andrew Learned, who represents part of Hillsborough County, drilled the bill sponsor about the proposal before he was ultimately satisfied.

“These issues are very politically charged, as we all up here are well aware, but this one seems to have struck the right balance without going too far,” Learned said.

Zephyrhills Republican Sen. Danny Burgess has filed the Senate version of the bill (SB 892), which still awaits a hearing in its first of three committees. The next stop for Hawkins’ bill is the House Education and Employment Committee.

Tristan Wood

Tristan Wood graduated from the University of Florida in 2021 with a degree in Journalism. A South Florida native, he has a passion for political and accountability reporting. He previously reported for Fresh Take Florida, a news service that covers the Florida Legislature and state political stories operating out of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications. You can reach Tristan at [email protected], or on Twitter @TristanDWood

One comment

  • ScienceBLVR

    January 19, 2022 at 8:40 pm

    What’s best for the parents, the teachers, the students? I guess I would say what’s best is not to be in a failing charter school! When it takes unrtil almost the end of the school year to see student test data, it’s pretty difficult to see how students are progressing..I wonder what ties this bill’s sponsors have to charter school companies? Grifter ties legislation if you ask me

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