(1) AUTHORIZATION.—The Legislature finds that the establishment of charter technical career centers can assist in promoting advances and innovations in workforce preparation and economic development. A charter technical career center may provide a learning environment that better serves the needs of a specific population group or a group of occupations, thus promoting diversity and choices within the public education and public postsecondary technical education community in this state. Therefore, the creation of such centers is authorized as part of the state’s program of public education. A charter technical career center may be formed by creating a new school or converting an existing school district or Florida College System institution program to charter technical status.
(2) PURPOSE.—The purpose of a charter technical career center is to:
(a) Develop a competitive workforce to support local business and industry and economic development.
(b) Create a training and education model that is reflective of marketplace realities.
(c) Offer a continuum of career educational opportunities using a school-to-work, tech-prep, technical, academy, and magnet school model.
(d) Provide career pathways for lifelong learning and career mobility.
(e) Enhance career and technical training.
(3) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Charter technical career center” or “center” means a public school or a public technical center operated under a charter granted by a district school board or Florida College System institution board of trustees or a consortium, including one or more district school boards and Florida College System institution boards of trustees, that includes the district in which the facility is located, that is nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and operations, and is managed by a board of directors.
(b) “Sponsor” means a district school board, a Florida College System institution board of trustees, or a consortium of one or more of each.
(4) CHARTER.—A sponsor may designate centers as provided in this section. An application to establish a center may be submitted by a sponsor or another organization that is determined, by rule of the State Board of Education, to be appropriate. However, an independent school is not eligible for status as a center. The charter must be signed by the governing body of the center and the sponsor and must be approved by the district school board and Florida College System institution board of trustees in whose geographic region the facility is located. If a charter technical career center is established by the conversion to charter status of a public technical center formerly governed by a district school board, the charter status of that center takes precedence in any question of governance. The governance of the center or of any program within the center remains with its board of directors unless the board agrees to a change in governance or its charter is revoked as provided in subsection (15). Such a conversion charter technical career center is not affected by a change in the governance of public technical centers or of programs within other centers that are or have been governed by district school boards. A charter technical career center, or any program within such a center, that was governed by a district school board and transferred to a Florida College System institution prior to the effective date of this act is not affected by this provision. An applicant who wishes to establish a center must submit to the district school board or Florida College System institution board of trustees, or a consortium of one or more of each, an application on a form developed by the Department of Education which includes:
(a) The name of the proposed center.
(b) The proposed structure of the center, including a list of proposed members of the board of directors or a description of the qualifications for and method of their appointment or election.
(c) The workforce development goals of the center, the curriculum to be offered, and the outcomes and the methods of assessing the extent to which the outcomes are met.
(d) The admissions policy and criteria for evaluating the admission of students.
(e) A description of the staff responsibilities and the proposed qualifications of the teaching staff.
(f) A description of the procedures to be implemented to ensure significant involvement of representatives of business and industry in the operation of the center.
(g) A method for determining whether a student has satisfied the requirements for graduation specified in s. 1003.43 and for completion of a postsecondary certificate or degree.
(h) A method for granting secondary and postsecondary diplomas, certificates, and degrees.
(i) A description of and address for the physical facility in which the center will be located.
(j) A method for resolving conflicts between the governing body of the center and the sponsor and between consortium members, if applicable.
(k) A method for reporting student data as required by law and rule.
(l) A statement that the applicant has participated in the training provided by the Department of Education.
(m) The identity of all relatives employed by the charter technical career center who are related to the center owner, president, chairperson of the governing board of directors, superintendent, governing board member, principal, assistant principal, or any other person employed by the center who has equivalent decisionmaking authority. As used in this paragraph, the term “relative” means father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, or half sister.
(n) Other information required by the district school board or Florida College System institution board of trustees.
Students at a center must meet the same testing and academic performance standards as those established by law and rule for students at public schools and public technical centers. The students must also meet any additional assessment indicators that are included within the charter approved by the district school board or Florida College System institution board of trustees.
(5) APPLICATION.—An application to establish a center must be submitted by February 1 of the year preceding the school year in which the center will begin operation. The sponsor must review the application using an evaluation instrument developed by the Department of Education and make a final decision on whether to approve the application and grant the charter by March 1, and may condition the granting of a charter on the center’s taking certain actions or maintaining certain conditions. Such actions and conditions must be provided to the applicant in writing. The district school board or Florida College System institution board of trustees is not required to issue a charter to any person.
(6) SPONSOR.—A district school board or Florida College System institution board of trustees or a consortium of one or more of each may sponsor a center in the county in which the board has jurisdiction.
(a) A sponsor must review all applications for centers received through at least February 1 of each calendar year for centers to be opened at the beginning of the sponsor’s next school year. A sponsor may receive applications later than this date if it so chooses. To facilitate an accurate budget projection process, a sponsor shall be held harmless for FTE students who are not included in the FTE projection due to approval of applications after the FTE projection deadline. A sponsor must, by a majority vote, approve or deny an application no later than 60 days after the application is received. If an application is denied, the sponsor must, within 10 days, notify the applicant in writing of the specific reasons for denial, which must be based upon good cause. Upon approval of a charter application, the initial startup must be consistent with the beginning of the public school or Florida College System institution calendar for the district in which the charter is granted, unless the sponsor allows a waiver of this provision for good cause.
(b) An applicant may appeal any denial of its application to the State Board of Education within 30 days after the sponsor’s denial and shall notify the sponsor of its appeal. Any response of the sponsor must be submitted to the state board within 30 days after notification of the appeal. The State Board of Education must, by majority vote, accept or reject the decision of the sponsor no later than 60 days after an appeal is filed, pursuant to State Board of Education rule. The State Board of Education may reject an appeal for failure to comply with procedural rules governing the appeals process, and the rejection must describe the submission errors. The appellant may have up to 15 days after notice of rejection to resubmit an appeal. An application for appeal submitted after a rejection is timely if the original appeal was filed within 30 days after the sponsor’s denial. The State Board of Education shall remand the application to the sponsor with a written recommendation that the sponsor approve or deny the application, consistent with the state board’s decision. The decision of the State Board of Education is not subject to the provisions of chapter 120.
(c) The sponsor must act upon the recommendation of the State Board of Education within 30 days after it is received, unless the sponsor determines by competent substantial evidence that approving the state board’s recommendation would be contrary to law or the best interests of the students or the community. The sponsor must notify the applicant in writing concerning the specific reasons for its failure to follow the state board’s recommendation. The sponsor’s action on the state board’s recommendation is a final action, subject to judicial review.
(d)1. The Department of Education shall offer or arrange for training and technical assistance to applicants in developing business plans and estimating costs and income. This assistance shall address estimating startup costs, projecting enrollment, and identifying the types and amounts of state and federal financial assistance the center may be eligible to receive. The training shall include instruction in accurate financial planning and good business practices.
2. An applicant must participate in the training provided by the Department of Education before filing an application. The Department of Education may provide technical assistance to an applicant upon written request.
(e) The terms and conditions for the operation of a center must be agreed to by the sponsor and the applicant in a written contract. The sponsor may not impose unreasonable requirements that violate the intent of giving centers greater flexibility to meet educational goals. The applicant and sponsor must reach an agreement on the provisions of the contract or the application is deemed denied.
(f) The sponsor shall monitor and review the center’s progress toward charter goals and shall monitor the center’s revenues and expenditures. The sponsor shall perform the duties provided in s. 1002.345. (7) LEGAL ENTITY.—A center must organize as a nonprofit organization and adopt a name and corporate seal. A center is a body corporate and politic, with all powers to implement its charter program. The center may:
(a) Be a private or a public employer.
(b) Sue and be sued, but only to the same extent and upon the same conditions that a public entity can be sued.
(c) Acquire real property by purchase, lease, lease with an option to purchase, or gift, to use as a center facility.
(d) Receive and disburse funds.
(e) Enter into contracts or leases for services, equipment, or supplies.
(f) Incur temporary debts in anticipation of the receipt of funds.
(g) Solicit and accept gifts or grants for career center purposes.
(h) Take any other action that is not inconsistent with this section and rules adopted under this section.
(8) ELIGIBLE STUDENTS.—A center must be open to all students as space is available and may not discriminate in admissions policies or practices on the basis of an individual’s physical disability or proficiency in English or on any other basis that would be unlawful if practiced by a public school or a Florida College System institution. A center may establish reasonable criteria by which to evaluate prospective students, which criteria must be outlined in the charter.
(9) FACILITIES.—A center may be located in any suitable location, including part of an existing public school or Florida College System institution building, space provided on a public worksite, or a public building. A center’s facilities must comply with the State Uniform Building Code for Public Educational Facilities Construction adopted pursuant to s. 1013.37, or with applicable state minimum building codes pursuant to chapter 553, and state minimum fire protection codes pursuant to s. 633.025, adopted by the authority in whose jurisdiction the facility is located. If K-12 public school funds are used for construction, the facility must remain on the local school district’s Florida Inventory of School Houses (FISH) school building inventory of the district school board and must revert to the district school board if the consortium dissolves and the program is discontinued. If Florida College System institution public school funds are used for construction, the facility must remain on the local Florida College System institution’s facilities inventory and must revert to the local Florida College System institution board of trustees if the consortium dissolves and the program is discontinued. The additional student capacity created by the addition of the center to the local school district’s FISH may not be calculated in the permanent student capacity for the purpose of determining need or eligibility for state capital outlay funds while the facility is used as a center. If the construction of the center is funded jointly by K-12 public school funds and Florida College System institution funds, the sponsoring entities must agree, before granting the charter, on the appropriate owner and terms of transfer of the facility if the charter is dissolved. (10) EXEMPTION FROM STATUTES.—
(a) A center must operate pursuant to its charter and is exempt from all statutes of the Florida School Code except provisions pertaining to civil rights and to student health, safety, and welfare, or as otherwise required by law.
(b) A center must comply with the Florida K-20 Education Code with respect to providing services to students with disabilities.
(c) A center must comply with the antidiscrimination provisions in s. 1000.05 and the provisions in s. 1002.33(24) which relate to the employment of relatives. (11) FUNDING.—
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a charter technical career center’s student membership enrollment must be calculated pursuant to this section.
(b) Each district school board and Florida College System institution that sponsors a charter technical career center shall pay directly to the center an amount stated in the charter. State funding shall be generated for the center for its student enrollment and program outcomes as provided in law. A center is eligible for funding from workforce education funds, the Florida Education Finance Program, and the Florida College System Program Fund, depending upon the programs conducted by the center.
(c) A center may receive other state and federal aid, grants, and revenue through the district school board or Florida College System institution board of trustees.
(d) A center may receive gifts and grants from private sources.
(e) A center may not levy taxes or issue bonds, but it may charge a student tuition fee consistent with authority granted in its charter and permitted by law.
(f) A center shall provide for an annual financial audit in accordance with s. 218.39. A center shall provide a monthly financial statement to the sponsor. The monthly financial statement shall be in a form prescribed by the Department of Education.
(g) A center must define in the charter agreement the delivery system in which the instructional offering of educational services will be placed. The rules governing this delivery system must be applied to all of the center’s students and must authorize all other sponsoring educational systems to report required enrollment and student data based solely on the rules of the offering institution. Each sponsor shall earn full-time equivalent membership for each student for funding and reporting purposes.
(12) EMPLOYEES OF A CENTER.—
(a) A center may select its own employees.
(b) A center may contract for services with an individual, partnership, or a cooperative. Such persons contracted with are not public employees.
(c) If a center contracts with a public educational agency for services, the terms of employment must follow existing state law and rule and local policies and procedures.
(d) The employees of a center may bargain collectively, as a separate unit or as part of the existing district collective bargaining unit, as determined by the structure of the center.
(e) As a public employer, a center may participate in: 1. The Florida Retirement System upon application and approval as a “covered group” under s. 121.021(34). If a center participates in the Florida Retirement System, its employees are compulsory members of the Florida Retirement System. 2. The State Community College System Optional Retirement Program pursuant to s. 1012.875(2), if the charter is granted by a Florida College System institution that participates in the optional retirement program and meets the eligibility criteria of s. 121.051(2)(c).
(f) Teachers who are considered qualified by the career center are exempt from state certification requirements.
(g) A public school or Florida College System institution teacher or administrator may take a leave of absence to accept employment in a charter technical career center upon the approval of the school district or Florida College System institution.
(h) An employee who is on a leave of absence under this section may retain seniority accrued in that school district or Florida College System institution and may continue to be covered by the benefit programs of that district or Florida College System institution if the center and the district school board or Florida College System institution board of trustees agree to this arrangement and its financing.
(13) BOARD OF DIRECTORS AUTHORITY.—The board of directors of a center may decide matters relating to the operation of the school, including budgeting, curriculum, and operating procedures, subject to the center’s charter. The board of directors is responsible for performing the duties provided in s. 1002.345, including monitoring the corrective action plan. The board of directors must comply with s. 1002.33(26). (14) ACCOUNTABILITY.—Each center must submit a report to the participating district school board or Florida College System institution board of trustees by August 1 of each year. The report must be in such form as the sponsor prescribes and must include:
(a) A discussion of progress made toward the achievement of the goals outlined in the center’s charter.
(b) A financial statement setting forth by appropriate categories the revenue and expenditures for the previous school year.
(15) TERMS OF THE CHARTER.—The term of an initial charter may not exceed 5 years. Thereafter, the sponsor may renew a charter for a period up to 5 years. The sponsor may refuse to renew a charter or may revoke a charter if the center has not fulfilled a condition imposed under the charter or if the center has violated any provision of the charter. The sponsor may place the center on probationary status to allow the implementation of a remedial plan, after which, if the plan is unsuccessful, the charter may be summarily revoked. The sponsor shall develop procedures and guidelines for the revocation and renewal of a center’s charter. The sponsor must give written notice of its intent not to renew the charter at least 12 months before the charter expires. If the sponsor revokes a charter before the scheduled expiration date, the sponsor must provide written notice to the governing board of the center at least 60 days before the date of termination, stating the grounds for the proposed revocation. The governing board of the center may request in writing an informal hearing before the sponsor within 14 days after receiving the notice of revocation. A revocation takes effect at the conclusion of a school year, unless the sponsor determines that earlier revocation is necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of students. The sponsor shall monitor and review the center in its progress toward the goals established in the charter and shall monitor the revenues and expenditures of the center.
(16) TRANSPORTATION.—The center may provide transportation, pursuant to chapter 1006, through a contract with the district school board or the Florida College System institution board of trustees, a private provider, or parents of students. The center must ensure that transportation is not a barrier to equal access for all students in grades K-12 residing within a reasonable distance of the facility.
(17) IMMUNITY.—For the purposes of tort liability, the governing body and employees of a center are governed by s. 768.28. (18) RULES.—The State Board of Education shall adopt rules, pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54, relating to the implementation of charter technical career centers, including rules to implement a charter model application form and an evaluation instrument in accordance with this section.
(19) EVALUATION; REPORT.—The Commissioner of Education shall provide for an annual comparative evaluation of charter technical career centers and public technical centers. The evaluation may be conducted in cooperation with the sponsor, through private contracts, or by department staff. At a minimum, the comparative evaluation must address the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the students served, the types and costs of services provided, and the outcomes achieved. By December 30 of each year, the Commissioner of Education shall submit to the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Senate and House committees that have responsibility for secondary and postsecondary career and technical education a report of the comparative evaluation completed for the previous school year.