June 2, 2021

Sue Kingery Woltanski: ICYMI SB1028 Is Actually a Radical Charter School Bill

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There has been a great deal of attention paid to the newly passed Florida bill requiring girl athletes to show their birth certificates as proof that they were born female. But Sue Kingery Woltanski, writing at Accountabaloney, reminds us that the transgender athlete law was just ab amendment to a bill that was actually all about another power grab for charter operators, establishing that state colleges and universities can serve as charter operators (thereby bypassing the school board elected by the taxpayers who will have to foot the bill).

During Florida’s last three legislative sessions, this bill was brought before the Legislature. It never had visible support from the state college or university system which will be asked to become the new charter authorizers. They did not ask for this. Who did? I’m guessing the big charter chains…

Creating a state wide, alternate charter school authorizer has been the holy grail of charter school lobbyists for years. Earlier attempts by then Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. (in 2016) and Constitution Revision Commissioner Erika Donalds (in 2017) were to amend the Constitution. In 2016 and 2017, they clearly understood the local school board’s constitutional authority to “operate, control and supervise” all the “free public schools” in their district. When their attempts to bring a constitutional amendment to the ballot failed, efforts shifted to ignoring the pesky constitution and legislatively creating a statewide authorizer within the college/university system. With today’s successful signing of SB1028, new charter schools (like the Hilsdale College Barney Classical charter schools Erika Donalds establishes through her Optima Foundation or the charter schools run by Manny Diaz’s for-profit employer, Academica, perhaps?) will be able to shop around for an university/college authorizer, avoiding the oversight of their elected school boards, and choose the authorizer, funding source and accountability system, that “best suits their needs,” creating yet another parallel system of publicly funded schools, despite the constitutional mandate for a “uniform system of free public K-12 schools.”

By creating an alternate charter school authorizer, SB1028 violates the Florida Constitution and strips away the constitutional authority of duly elected school boards. It is a HUGE win for the corporate charter school industry. This blog serves as a reminder that SB1028 was controversial and unconstitutional before it added the banning of transgender athletes. ICYMI.

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