Florida Senate - 2015                                     SB 720
       By Senator Ring
       29-00122B-15                                           2015720__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to school choice; amending s. 1002.33,
    3         F.S.; requiring a person or officer of an entity who
    4         submits a charter school application to undergo
    5         background screening; prohibiting a sponsor from
    6         approving a charter school application until
    7         completion and receipt of the results of such
    8         screening; requiring a charter school applicant to
    9         provide evidence of accreditation; revising the
   10         deadline by which a charter school must have a
   11         certificate of occupancy or temporary certificate of
   12         occupancy; requiring that approval of a charter be
   13         based on documentation of adequate financial resources
   14         to support the charter school’s operation; removing
   15         obsolete language; amending s. 1002.331, F.S.;
   16         conforming a cross-reference to changes made by the
   17         act; providing an effective date.
   19  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   21         Section 1. Paragraph (b) of subsection (6), paragraph (a)
   22  of subsection (7), and paragraph (c) of subsection (17) of
   23  section 1002.33, Florida Statutes, are amended, present
   24  paragraphs (g) and (h) of subsection (6) of that section are
   25  redesignated as paragraphs (h) and (i), respectively, and a new
   26  paragraph (g) is added to that subsection, to read:
   27         1002.33 Charter schools.—
   28         (6) APPLICATION PROCESS AND REVIEW.—Charter school
   29  applications are subject to the following requirements:
   30         (b) A sponsor shall receive and review all applications for
   31  a charter school using an evaluation instrument developed by the
   32  Department of Education. A sponsor shall receive and consider
   33  charter school applications received on or before August 1 of
   34  each calendar year for charter schools to be opened at the
   35  beginning of the school district’s next school year, or to be
   36  opened at a time agreed to by the applicant and the sponsor. A
   37  sponsor may not refuse to receive a charter school application
   38  submitted before August 1 and may receive an application
   39  submitted later than August 1 if it chooses. In order to
   40  facilitate greater collaboration in the application process, an
   41  applicant may submit a draft charter school application on or
   42  before May 1 with an application fee of $500. If a draft
   43  application is timely submitted, the sponsor shall review and
   44  provide feedback as to material deficiencies in the application
   45  by July 1. The applicant shall then have until August 1 to
   46  resubmit a revised and final application. The sponsor may
   47  approve the draft application. A sponsor may not charge an
   48  applicant for a charter any fee for the processing or
   49  consideration of an application, and a sponsor may not base its
   50  consideration or approval of a final application upon the
   51  promise of future payment of any kind. Before approving or
   52  denying any final application, the sponsor shall allow the
   53  applicant, upon receipt of written notification, at least 7
   54  calendar days to make technical or nonsubstantive corrections
   55  and clarifications, including, but not limited to, corrections
   56  of grammatical, typographical, and like errors or missing
   57  signatures, if such errors are identified by the sponsor as
   58  cause to deny the final application.
   59         1. In order to facilitate an accurate budget projection
   60  process, a sponsor shall be held harmless for FTE students who
   61  are not included in the FTE projection due to approval of
   62  charter school applications after the FTE projection deadline.
   63  In a further effort to facilitate an accurate budget projection,
   64  within 15 calendar days after receipt of a charter school
   65  application, a sponsor shall report to the Department of
   66  Education the name of the applicant entity, the proposed charter
   67  school location, and its projected FTE.
   68         2. In order to ensure fiscal responsibility, an application
   69  for a charter school shall include a full accounting of expected
   70  assets, a projection of expected sources and amounts of income,
   71  including income derived from projected student enrollments and
   72  from community support, and an expense projection that includes
   73  full accounting of the costs of operation, including start-up
   74  costs.
   75         3.a. A sponsor shall by a majority vote approve or deny an
   76  application no later than 60 calendar days after the application
   77  is received, unless the sponsor and the applicant mutually agree
   78  in writing to temporarily postpone the vote to a specific date,
   79  at which time the sponsor shall by a majority vote approve or
   80  deny the application. If the sponsor fails to act on the
   81  application, an applicant may appeal to the State Board of
   82  Education as provided in paragraph (c). If an application is
   83  denied, the sponsor shall, within 10 calendar days after such
   84  denial, articulate in writing the specific reasons, based upon
   85  good cause, supporting its denial of the charter application and
   86  shall provide the letter of denial and supporting documentation
   87  to the applicant and to the Department of Education.
   88         b. An application submitted by a high-performing charter
   89  school identified pursuant to s. 1002.331 may be denied by the
   90  sponsor only if the sponsor demonstrates by clear and convincing
   91  evidence that:
   92         (I) The application does not materially comply with the
   93  requirements in paragraph (a);
   94         (II) The charter school proposed in the application does
   95  not materially comply with the requirements in paragraphs
   96  (9)(a)-(f);
   97         (III) The proposed charter school’s educational program
   98  does not substantially replicate that of the applicant or one of
   99  the applicant’s high-performing charter schools;
  100         (IV) The applicant has made a material misrepresentation or
  101  false statement or concealed an essential or material fact
  102  during the application process; or
  103         (V) The proposed charter school’s educational program and
  104  financial management practices do not materially comply with the
  105  requirements of this section.
  107  Material noncompliance is a failure to follow requirements or a
  108  violation of prohibitions applicable to charter school
  109  applications, which failure is quantitatively or qualitatively
  110  significant either individually or when aggregated with other
  111  noncompliance. An applicant is considered to be replicating a
  112  high-performing charter school if the proposed school is
  113  substantially similar to at least one of the applicant’s high
  114  performing charter schools and the organization or individuals
  115  involved in the establishment and operation of the proposed
  116  school are significantly involved in the operation of replicated
  117  schools.
  118         c. If the sponsor denies an application submitted by a
  119  high-performing charter school, the sponsor must, within 10
  120  calendar days after such denial, state in writing the specific
  121  reasons, based upon the criteria in sub-subparagraph b.,
  122  supporting its denial of the application and must provide the
  123  letter of denial and supporting documentation to the applicant
  124  and to the Department of Education. The applicant may appeal the
  125  sponsor’s denial of the application directly to the State Board
  126  of Education pursuant to sub-subparagraph (c)3.b.
  127         4. For budget projection purposes, the sponsor shall report
  128  to the Department of Education the approval or denial of a
  129  charter application within 10 calendar days after such approval
  130  or denial. In the event of approval, the report to the
  131  Department of Education shall include the final projected FTE
  132  for the approved charter school.
  133         5. Upon approval of a charter application, the initial
  134  startup shall commence with the beginning of the public school
  135  calendar for the district in which the charter is granted unless
  136  the sponsor allows a waiver of this subparagraph for good cause.
  137         6. A person, or an officer of an entity, who submits an
  138  application pursuant to this subsection must undergo background
  139  screening in the same manner as instructional and
  140  noninstructional personnel hired or contracted to fill positions
  141  in a charter school or as members of the governing board of a
  142  charter school undergo background screening under s. 1012.32.
  143  Notwithstanding any other provision of this subsection, a person
  144  may not receive approval of a charter application until the
  145  person’s screening is completed and the results have been
  146  submitted to the sponsor.
  147         (g) A charter school applicant, after approval of an
  148  application but before the first day of classes at the charter
  149  school, must provide verified evidence that the school has been
  150  accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
  151         (7) CHARTER.—The major issues involving the operation of a
  152  charter school shall be considered in advance and written into
  153  the charter. The charter shall be signed by the governing board
  154  of the charter school and the sponsor, following a public
  155  hearing to ensure community input.
  156         (a) The charter shall address and criteria for approval of
  157  the charter shall be based on:
  158         1. The school’s mission, the students to be served, and the
  159  ages and grades to be included.
  160         2. The focus of the curriculum, the instructional methods
  161  to be used, any distinctive instructional techniques to be
  162  employed, and identification and acquisition of appropriate
  163  technologies needed to improve educational and administrative
  164  performance which include a means for promoting safe, ethical,
  165  and appropriate uses of technology which comply with legal and
  166  professional standards.
  167         a. The charter shall ensure that reading is a primary focus
  168  of the curriculum and that resources are provided to identify
  169  and provide specialized instruction for students who are reading
  170  below grade level. The curriculum and instructional strategies
  171  for reading must be consistent with the Next Generation Sunshine
  172  State Standards and grounded in scientifically based reading
  173  research.
  174         b. In order to provide students with access to diverse
  175  instructional delivery models, to facilitate the integration of
  176  technology within traditional classroom instruction, and to
  177  provide students with the skills they need to compete in the
  178  21st century economy, the Legislature encourages instructional
  179  methods for blended learning courses consisting of both
  180  traditional classroom and online instructional techniques.
  181  Charter schools may implement blended learning courses which
  182  combine traditional classroom instruction and virtual
  183  instruction. Students in a blended learning course must be full
  184  time students of the charter school and receive the online
  185  instruction in a classroom setting at the charter school.
  186  Instructional personnel certified pursuant to s. 1012.55 who
  187  provide virtual instruction for blended learning courses may be
  188  employees of the charter school or may be under contract to
  189  provide instructional services to charter school students. At a
  190  minimum, such instructional personnel must hold an active state
  191  or school district adjunct certification under s. 1012.57 for
  192  the subject area of the blended learning course. The funding and
  193  performance accountability requirements for blended learning
  194  courses are the same as those for traditional courses.
  195         3. The current incoming baseline standard of student
  196  academic achievement, the outcomes to be achieved, and the
  197  method of measurement that will be used. The criteria listed in
  198  this subparagraph shall include a detailed description of:
  199         a. How the baseline student academic achievement levels and
  200  prior rates of academic progress will be established.
  201         b. How these baseline rates will be compared to rates of
  202  academic progress achieved by these same students while
  203  attending the charter school.
  204         c. To the extent possible, how these rates of progress will
  205  be evaluated and compared with rates of progress of other
  206  closely comparable student populations.
  208  The district school board is required to provide academic
  209  student performance data to charter schools for each of their
  210  students coming from the district school system, as well as
  211  rates of academic progress of comparable student populations in
  212  the district school system.
  213         4. The methods used to identify the educational strengths
  214  and needs of students and how well educational goals and
  215  performance standards are met by students attending the charter
  216  school. The methods shall provide a means for the charter school
  217  to ensure accountability to its constituents by analyzing
  218  student performance data and by evaluating the effectiveness and
  219  efficiency of its major educational programs. Students in
  220  charter schools shall, at a minimum, participate in the
  221  statewide assessment program created under s. 1008.22.
  222         5. In secondary charter schools, a method for determining
  223  that a student has satisfied the requirements for graduation in
  224  s. 1002.3105(5), s. 1003.4281, or s. 1003.4282.
  225         6. A method for resolving conflicts between the governing
  226  board of the charter school and the sponsor.
  227         7. The admissions procedures and dismissal procedures,
  228  including the school’s code of student conduct.
  229         8. The ways by which the school will achieve a
  230  racial/ethnic balance reflective of the community it serves or
  231  within the racial/ethnic range of other public schools in the
  232  same school district.
  233         9. The financial and administrative management of the
  234  school, including a reasonable demonstration of the professional
  235  experience or competence of those individuals or organizations
  236  applying to operate the charter school or those hired or
  237  retained to perform such professional services and the
  238  description of clearly delineated responsibilities and the
  239  policies and practices needed to effectively manage the charter
  240  school. A description of internal audit procedures and
  241  establishment of controls to ensure that financial resources are
  242  properly managed must be included. Both public sector and
  243  private sector professional experience shall be equally valid in
  244  such a consideration.
  245         10. The asset and liability projections required in the
  246  application which are incorporated into the charter and shall be
  247  compared with information provided in the annual report of the
  248  charter school.
  249         11. A description of procedures that identify various risks
  250  and provide for a comprehensive approach to reduce the impact of
  251  losses; plans to ensure the safety and security of students and
  252  staff; plans to identify, minimize, and protect others from
  253  violent or disruptive student behavior; and the manner in which
  254  the school will be insured, including whether or not the school
  255  will be required to have liability insurance, and, if so, the
  256  terms and conditions thereof and the amounts of coverage.
  257         12. The term of the charter which shall provide for
  258  cancellation of the charter if insufficient progress has been
  259  made in attaining the student achievement objectives of the
  260  charter and if it is not likely that such objectives can be
  261  achieved before expiration of the charter. The initial term of a
  262  charter shall be for 4 or 5 years. In order to facilitate access
  263  to long-term financial resources for charter school
  264  construction, charter schools that are operated by a
  265  municipality or other public entity as provided by law are
  266  eligible for up to a 15-year charter, subject to approval by the
  267  district school board. A charter lab school is eligible for a
  268  charter for a term of up to 15 years. In addition, to facilitate
  269  access to long-term financial resources for charter school
  270  construction, charter schools that are operated by a private,
  271  not-for-profit, s. 501(c)(3) status corporation are eligible for
  272  up to a 15-year charter, subject to approval by the district
  273  school board. Such long-term charters remain subject to annual
  274  review and may be terminated during the term of the charter, but
  275  only according to the provisions set forth in subsection (8).
  276         13. The facilities to be used and their location. The
  277  sponsor shall may not require a charter school to have a
  278  certificate of occupancy or a temporary certificate of occupancy
  279  for such a facility no later than 60 earlier than 15 calendar
  280  days before the first day of school.
  281         14. The qualifications to be required of the teachers and
  282  the potential strategies used to recruit, hire, train, and
  283  retain qualified staff to achieve best value.
  284         15. The governance structure of the school, including the
  285  status of the charter school as a public or private employer as
  286  required in paragraph (12)(i).
  287         16. A timetable for implementing the charter which
  288  addresses the implementation of each element thereof and the
  289  date by which the charter shall be awarded in order to meet this
  290  timetable.
  291         17. In the case of an existing public school that is being
  292  converted to charter status, alternative arrangements for
  293  current students who choose not to attend the charter school and
  294  for current teachers who choose not to teach in the charter
  295  school after conversion in accordance with the existing
  296  collective bargaining agreement or district school board rule in
  297  the absence of a collective bargaining agreement. However,
  298  alternative arrangements shall not be required for current
  299  teachers who choose not to teach in a charter lab school, except
  300  as authorized by the employment policies of the state university
  301  which grants the charter to the lab school.
  302         18. Full disclosure of the identity of all relatives
  303  employed by the charter school who are related to the charter
  304  school owner, president, chairperson of the governing board of
  305  directors, superintendent, governing board member, principal,
  306  assistant principal, or any other person employed by the charter
  307  school who has equivalent decisionmaking authority. For the
  308  purpose of this subparagraph, the term “relative” means father,
  309  mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first
  310  cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in
  311  law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law,
  312  stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother,
  313  stepsister, half brother, or half sister.
  314         19. Implementation of the activities authorized under s.
  315  1002.331 by the charter school when it satisfies the eligibility
  316  requirements for a high-performing charter school. A high
  317  performing charter school shall notify its sponsor in writing by
  318  March 1 if it intends to increase enrollment or expand grade
  319  levels the following school year. The written notice shall
  320  specify the amount of the enrollment increase and the grade
  321  levels that will be added, as applicable.
  322         20. Documentation of adequate financial resources to
  323  support the operation of the charter school no later than 60
  324  calendar days before the first day of school. Documentation may
  325  include bank statements, financial statements, loan documents,
  326  and any other business and financial records.
  327         (17) FUNDING.—Students enrolled in a charter school,
  328  regardless of the sponsorship, shall be funded as if they are in
  329  a basic program or a special program, the same as students
  330  enrolled in other public schools in the school district. Funding
  331  for a charter lab school shall be as provided in s. 1002.32.
  332         (c) If the district school board is providing programs or
  333  services to students funded by federal funds, any eligible
  334  students enrolled in charter schools in the school district
  335  shall be provided federal funds for the same level of service
  336  provided students in the schools operated by the district school
  337  board. Pursuant to provisions of 20 U.S.C. 8061 s. 10306, All
  338  charter schools shall receive all federal funding for which the
  339  school is otherwise eligible, including Title I funding, no not
  340  later than 5 months after the charter school first opens and
  341  within 5 months after any subsequent expansion of enrollment.
  342  Unless otherwise mutually agreed to by the charter school and
  343  its sponsor, and consistent with state and federal rules and
  344  regulations governing the use and disbursement of federal funds,
  345  the sponsor shall reimburse the charter school on a monthly
  346  basis for all invoices submitted by the charter school for
  347  federal funds available to the sponsor for the benefit of the
  348  charter school, the charter school’s students, and the charter
  349  school’s students as public school students in the school
  350  district. Such federal funds include, but are not limited to,
  351  Title I, Title II, and Individuals with Disabilities Education
  352  Act (IDEA) funds. To receive timely reimbursement for an
  353  invoice, the charter school must submit the invoice to the
  354  sponsor at least 30 days before the monthly date of
  355  reimbursement set by the sponsor. In order to be reimbursed, any
  356  expenditures made by the charter school must comply with all
  357  applicable state rules and federal regulations, including, but
  358  not limited to, the applicable federal Office of Management and
  359  Budget Circulars; United States Department of Education the
  360  federal Education Department General Administrative Regulations;
  361  and program-specific statutes, rules, and regulations. Such
  362  funds may not be made available to the charter school until a
  363  plan is submitted to the sponsor for approval of the use of the
  364  funds in accordance with applicable federal requirements. The
  365  sponsor has 30 days to review and approve any plan submitted
  366  pursuant to this paragraph.
  367         Section 2. Paragraph (a) of subsection (3) of section
  368  1002.331, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
  369         1002.331 High-performing charter schools.—
  370         (3)(a) A high-performing charter school may submit an
  371  application pursuant to s. 1002.33(6) in any school district in
  372  the state to establish and operate a new charter school that
  373  will substantially replicate its educational program. An
  374  application submitted by a high-performing charter school must
  375  state that the application is being submitted pursuant to this
  376  paragraph and must include the verification letter provided by
  377  the Commissioner of Education pursuant to subsection (5). If the
  378  sponsor fails to act on the application within 60 days after
  379  receipt, the application is deemed approved and the procedure in
  380  s. 1002.33(6)(i) s. 1002.33(6)(h) applies. If the sponsor denies
  381  the application, the high-performing charter school may appeal
  382  pursuant to s. 1002.33(6).
  383         Section 3. This act shall take effect July 1, 2015.