The controversial bills recently passed in Florida regarding education reform will not affect most Florida charter schools.
Over the past few weeks, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed in two controversial school bills for which he has made no apologies. The new laws look to have huge implications on Florida public schools and students while giving parents a much larger voice. Not all schools will be affected by the new laws, though, as Florida charter schools do not appear to fall under Gov. DeSantis’ pen.
There are approximately 340,000 students attending charter schools throughout the state. For the most part, none of these children will feel the changes brought on by the passage of HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education Bill. This is because the Florida Statutes chapter HB 1557 relates to concerns district school board powers, which finds Florida charter schools exempt.
The second bill, HB 1467, the K-12 Education Bill, concerns schools and how they choose books for their library shelves and classroom learning. This bill amends a chapter of the law as it relates to school board powers. This is something that does not apply to Florida charter schools. When Gov. DeSantis signed the new bills, he was firm on his stance. He felt it was very important to protect parental rights in decisions that affected their children at school. His goal was to curb school overreach and to make sure any school decision, whether it be curriculum or medically related, included parental input.
“In Florida, we not only know that parents have a right to be involved, we insist that parents have a right to be involved,” the governor said via the Tampa Bay Times before putting pen to paper with his signature. The new laws, though mainly directed at public schools and not Florida charter schools, still will have some impact on the charter schools. The feeling here is that because charter schools, like public schools, are subject to the statutes that deal with student health and welfare, there will be some effect.
Florida charter schools will now also have to meet the new requirement that says for high school students to graduate, they must pass a financial literacy course. There is also a new bill pending, HB 7, called Individual Freedom, from which Florida charter schools will not be exempt. This bill centers on race lessons in schools and how specified concepts can be considered discrimination based on one’s sex, race, color, or national origin. This is the ongoing fight against teaching critical race theory in schools.
What many like to point out with these new laws is how little oversight Florida charter schools get versus public schools. Lawmakers, such as Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who brought the bills forward, say that charter schools should not have to be held to the same restrictions as district public schools. Baxley claims that charter schools are “an experiment to see what kinds of schools are created and what the results are” and because of this, they need to have the flexibility given to them in order to make proper decisions on school curriculum as well as other pertinent matters.
But it is the fact that Florida charter schools receive state money that has a number of Florida Democrats up in arms. Senate Education Committee vice-chairperson Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens, is one such Democrat and claims the state Republicans are “double-talking.” Jones did not let his displeasure be unheard.
Jones says that the Republicans’ view on the Florida charter schools versus public schools simply worsens the public perception of district schools. He claims Republicans make public schools look like institutions that cannot be trusted, giving way for charter schools and school vouchers to take their place. He also said that for the most part, Florida charter schools can virtually do as they please.
“Of course, they’re not going to bother with the charter school system, because it’s a business model for them and many of their friends,” Jones said. He acknowledged that the only possible way out of the Florida charter school favoritism might be through elections.
For now, though, Gov. DeSantis is moving forward and not worried in the least from his detractors. Just ask the Walt Disney Corporation. His mind is set on one thing and one thing only – giving parents a bigger voice in how their children are educated. Florida charter schools may not feel the full weight of Gov. DeSantis’ pen, but they won’t be completely left out in the cold.