(1) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Florida Opportunity Zone” means a population census tract that has been designated by the United States Department of the Treasury as a Qualified Opportunity Zone pursuant to s. 1400Z-1(b)(1)(B) of the Internal Revenue Code.
(b) “Hope operator” means an entity identified by the department pursuant to subsection (2).
(c) “Persistently low-performing school” means a school that has earned three grades lower than a “C,” pursuant to s. 1008.34, in at least 3 of the previous 5 years that the school received a grade and has not earned a grade of “B” or higher in the most recent 2 school years, and a school that was closed pursuant to s. 1008.33(4) within 2 years after the submission of a notice of intent. (d) “School of hope” means: 1. A charter school operated by a hope operator which:
a. Serves students from one or more persistently low-performing schools and students who reside in a Florida Opportunity Zone;
b. Is located in a Florida Opportunity Zone or in the attendance zone of a persistently low-performing school or within a 5-mile radius of such school, whichever is greater; and
c. Is a Title I eligible school; or
2. A school operated by a hope operator pursuant to s. 1008.33(4)(b)3. (2) HOPE OPERATOR.—A hope operator is a nonprofit organization with tax exempt status under s. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code that operates three or more charter schools that serve students in grades K-12 in Florida or other states with a record of serving students from low-income families and is designated by the State Board of Education as a hope operator based on a determination that: (a) The past performance of the hope operator meets or exceeds the following criteria:
1. The achievement of enrolled students exceeds the district and state averages of the states in which the operator’s schools operate;
2. The average college attendance rate at all schools currently operated by the operator exceeds 80 percent, if such data is available;
3. The percentage of students eligible for a free or reduced price lunch under the National School Lunch Act enrolled at all schools currently operated by the operator exceeds 70 percent;
4. The operator is in good standing with the authorizer in each state in which it operates;
5. The audited financial statements of the operator are free of material misstatements and going concern issues; and
6. Other outcome measures as determined by the State Board of Education;
(b) The operator was awarded a United States Department of Education Charter School Program Grant for Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools within the preceding 3 years before applying to be a hope operator;
(c) The operator receives funding through the National Fund of the Charter School Growth Fund to accelerate the growth of the nation’s best charter schools; or
(d) The operator is selected by a district school board in accordance with s. 1008.33.
An entity that meets the requirements of paragraph (b), paragraph (c), or paragraph (d) before the adoption by the state board of measurable criteria pursuant to paragraph (a) shall be designated as a hope operator. After the adoption of the measurable criteria, an entity, including a governing board that operates a school established pursuant to s. 1008.33(4)(b)3., shall be designated as a hope operator if it meets the criteria of paragraph (a).
(3) DESIGNATION OF HOPE OPERATOR.—Initial status as a hope operator is valid for 5 years from the opening of a school of hope. If a hope operator seeks the renewal of its status, such renewal shall solely be based upon the academic and financial performance of all schools established by the operator in the state since its initial designation.
(4) ESTABLISHMENT OF SCHOOLS OF HOPE.—A hope operator seeking to open a school of hope must submit a notice of intent to the school district in which a persistently low-performing school has been identified by the State Board of Education pursuant to subsection (10) or in which a Florida Opportunity Zone is located. (a) The notice of intent must include:
1. An academic focus and plan.
2. A financial plan.
3. Goals and objectives for increasing student achievement for the students from low-income families.
4. A completed or planned community outreach plan.
5. The organizational history of success in working with students with similar demographics.
6. The grade levels to be served and enrollment projections.
7. The proposed location or geographic area proposed for the school consistent with the requirements of sub-subparagraphs (1)(d)1.a. and b.
8. A staffing plan.
(b) Notwithstanding the requirements of s. 1002.33, a school district shall enter into a performance-based agreement with a hope operator to open schools to serve students from persistently low-performing schools and students residing in a Florida Opportunity Zone. (5) PERFORMANCE-BASED AGREEMENT.—The following shall comprise the entirety of the performance-based agreement:
(a) The notice of intent, which is incorporated by reference and attached to the agreement.
(b) The location or geographic area proposed for the school of hope and its proximity to the persistently low-performing school, as applicable.
(c) An enumeration of the grades to be served in each year of the agreement and whether the school will serve children in the school readiness or prekindergarten programs.
(d) A plan of action and specific milestones for student recruitment and the enrollment of students from persistently low-performing schools and students residing in a Florida Opportunity Zone, including enrollment preferences and procedures for conducting transparent admissions lotteries that are open to the public. Students from persistently low-performing schools and students residing in a Florida Opportunity Zone shall be exempt from any enrollment lottery to the extent permitted by federal grant requirements.
(e) A delineation of the current incoming baseline standard of student academic achievement, the outcomes to be achieved, and the method of measurement that will be used.
(f) A description of the methods of involving parents and expected levels for such involvement.
(g) The grounds for termination, including failure to meet the requirements for student performance established pursuant to paragraph (e), generally accepted standards of fiscal management, or material violation of terms of the agreement. The nonrenewal or termination of a performance-based agreement must comply with the requirements of s. 1002.33(8).
(h) A provision allowing the hope operator to open additional schools to serve students enrolled in or zoned for a persistently low-performing school and students residing in a Florida Opportunity Zone if the hope operator maintains its status under subsection (3).
(i) A provision establishing the initial term as 5 years. The agreement shall be renewed, upon the request of the hope operator, unless the school fails to meet the requirements for student performance established pursuant to paragraph (e) or generally accepted standards of fiscal management or the school of hope materially violates the law or the terms of the agreement.
(j) A requirement to provide transportation consistent with the requirements of ss. 1006.21-1006.27 and s. 1012.45. The governing body of the school of hope may provide transportation through an agreement or contract with the district school board, a private provider, or parents of enrolled students. Transportation may not be a barrier to equal access for all students residing within reasonable distance of the school.
(k) A requirement that any arrangement entered into to borrow or otherwise secure funds for the school of hope from a source other than the state or a school district shall indemnify the state and the school district from any and all liability, including, but not limited to, financial responsibility for the payment of the principal or interest.
(l) A provision that any loans, bonds, or other financial agreements are not obligations of the state or the school district but are obligations of the school of hope and are payable solely from the sources of funds pledged by such agreement.
(m) A prohibition on the pledge of credit or taxing power of the state or the school district.
(6) STATUTORY AUTHORITY.— (a) A school of hope or a nonprofit entity that operates more than one school of hope through a performance-based agreement with a school district may be designated as a local education agency by the department, if requested, for the purposes of receiving federal funds and, in doing so, accepts the full responsibility for all local education agency requirements and the schools for which it will perform local education agency responsibilities. 1. A nonprofit entity designated as a local education agency may report its students to the department in accordance with the definitions in s. 1011.61 and pursuant to the department’s procedures and timelines. 2. Students enrolled in a school established by a hope operator designated as a local educational agency are not eligible students for purposes of calculating the district grade pursuant to s. 1008.34(5). (b) For the purposes of tort liability, the hope operator, the school of hope, and its employees or agents shall be governed by s. 768.28. The sponsor shall not be liable for civil damages under state law for the employment actions or personal injury, property damage, or death resulting from an act or omission of a hope operator, the school of hope, or its employees or agents. This paragraph does not include any for-profit entity contracted by the charter school or its governing body. (c) A school of hope may be either a private or a public employer. As a public employer, the school of hope may participate in the Florida Retirement System upon application and approval as a covered group under s. 121.021(34). If a school of hope participates in the Florida Retirement System, the school of hope’s employees shall be compulsory members of the Florida Retirement System. (d) A hope operator may employ school administrators and instructional personnel who do not meet the requirements of s. 1012.56 if the school administrators and instructional personnel are not ineligible for such employment under s. 1012.315. (e) Compliance with s. 1003.03 shall be calculated as the average at the school level. (f) Schools of hope operated by a hope operator shall be exempt from chapters 1000-1013 and all school board policies. However, a hope operator shall be in compliance with the laws in chapters 1000-1013 relating to:
1. The student assessment program and school grading system.
2. Student progression and graduation.
3. The provision of services to students with disabilities.
4. Civil rights, including s. 1000.05, relating to discrimination.
5. Student health, safety, and welfare.
6. Public meetings and records, public inspection, and criminal and civil penalties pursuant to s. 286.011. The governing board of a school of hope must hold at least two public meetings per school year in the school district in which the school of hope is located. Any other meetings of the governing board may be held in accordance with s. 120.54(5)(b)2.
7. Public records pursuant to chapter 119.
8. The code of ethics for public officers and employees pursuant to ss. 112.313(2), (3), (7), and (12) and 112.3143(3). (g) Each school of hope that has not been designated as a local education agency shall report its students to the school district as required in s. 1011.62, and in accordance with the definitions in s. 1011.61. The school district shall include each charter school’s enrollment in the district’s report of student enrollment. All charter schools submitting student record information required by the department shall comply with the department’s guidelines for electronic data formats for such data, and all districts shall accept electronic data that complies with the department’s electronic format. (h)1. A school of hope shall provide the school district with a concise, uniform, quarterly financial statement summary sheet that contains a balance sheet and a statement of revenue, expenditures, and changes in fund balance. The balance sheet and the statement of revenue, expenditures, and changes in fund balance shall be in the governmental fund format prescribed by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. Additionally, a school of hope shall comply with the annual audit requirement for charter schools in s. 218.39. 2. A school of hope is in compliance with subparagraph 1. if it is operated by a nonprofit entity designated as a local education agency and if the nonprofit submits to each school district in which it operates a school of hope:
a. A concise, uniform, quarterly financial statement summary sheet that contains a balance sheet summarizing the revenue, expenditures, and changes in fund balance for the entity and for its schools of hope within the school district.
b. An annual financial audit of the nonprofit which includes all schools of hope it operates within this state and which complies with s. 218.39 regarding audits of a school board. (7) FACILITIES.—
(a) A school of hope shall use facilities that comply with the Florida Building Code, except for the State Requirements for Educational Facilities. A school of hope that uses school district facilities must comply with the State Requirements for Educational Facilities only if the school district and the hope operator have entered into a mutual management plan for the reasonable maintenance of such facilities. The mutual management plan shall contain a provision by which the district school board agrees to maintain the school facilities in the same manner as its other public schools within the district. The local governing authority shall not adopt or impose any local building requirements or site-development restrictions, such as parking and site-size criteria, student enrollment, and occupant load, that are addressed by and more stringent than those found in the State Requirements for Educational Facilities of the Florida Building Code. A local governing authority must treat schools of hope equitably in comparison to similar requirements, restrictions, and site planning processes imposed upon public schools. The agency having jurisdiction for inspection of a facility and issuance of a certificate of occupancy or use shall be the local municipality or, if in an unincorporated area, the county governing authority. If an official or employee of the local governing authority refuses to comply with this paragraph, the aggrieved school or entity has an immediate right to bring an action in circuit court to enforce its rights by injunction. An aggrieved party that receives injunctive relief may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and court costs.
(b) Any facility, or portion thereof, used to house a school of hope shall be exempt from ad valorem taxes pursuant to s. 196.1983. Library, community service, museum, performing arts, theatre, cinema, church, Florida College System institution, college, and university facilities may provide space to schools of hope within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations without obtaining a special exception, rezoning, or a land use change. (c) School of hope facilities are exempt from assessments of fees for building permits, except as provided in s. 553.80; fees for building and occupational licenses; impact fees or exactions; service availability fees; and assessments for special benefits.
(d) No later than January 1, the department shall annually provide to school districts a list of all underused, vacant, or surplus facilities owned or operated by the school district as reported in the Florida Inventory of School Houses. A school district may provide evidence to the department that the list contains errors or omissions within 30 days after receipt of the list. By each April 1, the department shall update and publish a final list of all underused, vacant, or surplus facilities owned or operated by each school district, based upon updated information provided by each school district. A hope operator establishing a school of hope may use an educational facility identified in this paragraph at no cost or at a mutually agreeable cost not to exceed $600 per student. A hope operator using a facility pursuant to this paragraph may not sell or dispose of such facility without the written permission of the school district. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “underused, vacant, or surplus facility” means an entire facility or portion thereof which is not fully used or is used irregularly or intermittently by the school district for instructional or program use.
(8) NONCOMPLIANCE.—A school district that does not enter into a performance-based agreement within 60 days after receipt of a notice of intent shall reduce the administrative fees withheld pursuant to s. 1002.33(20) to 1 percent for all charter schools operating in the school district. Upon execution of the performance-based agreement, the school district may resume withholding the full amount of administrative fees, but may not recover any fees that would have otherwise accrued during the period of noncompliance. Any charter school that had administrative fees withheld in violation of this subsection may recover attorney fees and costs to enforce the requirements of this subsection. A school district subject to the requirements of this section shall file a monthly report detailing the reduction in the amount of administrative fees withheld. (9) FUNDING.— (a) Schools of hope shall be funded in accordance with s. 1002.33(17).
(b) Schools of hope shall receive priority in the department’s Public Charter School Grant Program competitions.
(c) Schools of hope shall be considered charter schools for purposes of s. 1013.62, except charter capital outlay may not be used to purchase real property or for the construction of school facilities.
(d) Schools of hope are eligible to receive funds from the Schools of Hope Program.
(e) For a nonprofit entity designated by the department as a local education agency pursuant to paragraph (6)(h), any unrestricted current and capital assets identified in the annual financial audit required by sub-subparagraph (6)(h)2.b. may be used for any other school of hope operated by the local education agency within the same district. Unrestricted current assets shall be used in accordance with s. 1011.62, and any unrestricted capital assets shall be used in accordance with s. 1013.62(2). (10) SCHOOLS OF HOPE PROGRAM.—The Schools of Hope Program is created within the Department of Education. (a) A school of hope is eligible to receive funds from the Schools of Hope Program for the following expenditures: 1. Preparing teachers, school leaders, and specialized instructional support personnel, including costs associated with:
a. Providing professional development.
b. Hiring and compensating teachers, school leaders, and specialized instructional support personnel for services until the school reaches full enrollment in accordance with the performance-based agreement pursuant to subsection (5).
2. Acquiring supplies, training, equipment, and educational materials, including developing and acquiring instructional materials.
3. Providing one-time startup costs associated with providing transportation to students to and from the charter school.
4. Carrying out community engagement activities, which may include paying the cost of student and staff recruitment.
5. Providing funds to cover the nonvoted ad valorem millage that would otherwise be required for schools and the required local effort funds calculated pursuant to s. 1011.62 when the state board enters into an agreement with a hope operator pursuant to subsection (5).
6. Providing funds for the initial leasing costs of a school facility in the event the department determines that a suitable district-owned facility is unavailable or not leased in a timely manner pursuant to paragraph (7)(d).
In the event a school of hope is dissolved or is otherwise terminated, all property, furnishings, and equipment purchased with public funds shall automatically revert to full ownership by the district school board, subject to complete satisfaction of any lawful liens or encumbrances. Any unencumbered public funds from the school of hope, district school board property and improvements, furnishings, and equipment purchased with public funds, or financial or other records pertaining to the school of hope, in the possession of any person, entity, or holding company, other than the charter school, shall be held in trust upon the district school board’s request, until any appeal status is resolved.
(b) Notwithstanding s. 216.301 and pursuant to s. 216.351, funds allocated for the purpose of this subsection which are not disbursed by June 30 of the fiscal year in which the funds are allocated may be carried forward for up to 5 years after the effective date of the original appropriation. (11) STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION AUTHORITY AND OBLIGATIONS.—Pursuant to Art. IX of the State Constitution, which prescribes the duty of the State Board of Education to supervise the public school system, the State Board of Education shall:
(a) Publish an annual list of persistently low-performing schools after the release of preliminary school grades.
(b) Adopt a standard notice of intent and performance-based agreement that must be used by hope operators and district school boards to eliminate regulatory and bureaucratic barriers that delay access to high quality schools for students in persistently low-performing schools and students residing in Florida Opportunity Zones.
(c) Resolve disputes between a hope operator and a school district arising from a performance-based agreement or a contract between a charter operator and a school district under the requirements of s. 1008.33. The Commissioner of Education shall appoint a special magistrate who is a member of The Florida Bar in good standing and who has at least 5 years’ experience in administrative law. The special magistrate shall hold hearings to determine facts relating to the dispute and to render a recommended decision for resolution to the State Board of Education. The recommendation may not alter in any way the provisions of the performance-based agreement under subsection (5). The special magistrate may administer oaths and issue subpoenas on behalf of the parties to the dispute or on his or her own behalf. Within 15 calendar days after the close of the final hearing, the special magistrate shall transmit a recommended decision to the State Board of Education and to the representatives of both parties by registered mail, return receipt requested. The State Board of Education must approve or reject the recommended decision at its next regularly scheduled meeting that is more than 7 calendar days and no more than 30 days after the date the recommended decision is transmitted. The decision by the State Board of Education is a final agency action that may be appealed to the District Court of Appeal, First District in accordance with s. 120.68. A charter school may recover attorney fees and costs if the State Board of Education determines that the school district unlawfully implemented or otherwise impeded implementation of the performance-based agreement pursuant to this paragraph. (d) Provide students in persistently low-performing schools and students residing in Florida Opportunity Zones with a public school that meets accountability standards. The State Board of Education may enter into a performance-based agreement with a hope operator when a school district has not improved the school after 3 years of the interventions and support provided under s. 1008.33 or has not complied with the requirements of subsection (4). Upon the State Board of Education entering into a performance-based agreement with a hope operator, the school district shall transfer to the school of hope the proportionate share of state funds allocated from the Florida Education Finance Program. (12) RULES.—The State Board of Education shall adopt rules pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54 to implement this section.