Florida Senate - 2015                                     SB 906
       By Senator Sobel
       33-00598-15                                            2015906__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to charter schools; amending s.
    3         1002.33, F.S.; requiring an application for a charter
    4         school to contain a list of certain information
    5         regarding all charter schools currently or previously
    6         operated by the applicant, applicant group, or
    7         proposed management company; requiring a sponsor to
    8         consider current or previous charter school
    9         performance by the applicant, applicant group, or
   10         proposed management company; authorizing a sponsor to
   11         deny an application based on charter school failures;
   12         requiring a charter school to submit monthly financial
   13         statements for the first year of operation with
   14         specified information included; requiring a charter
   15         school to submit a plan to become financially viable
   16         under certain circumstances; requiring a charter to
   17         include documentation of adequate financial resources
   18         to support the charter school’s operation; providing
   19         an effective date.
   21  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   23         Section 1. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (6) and
   24  paragraph (a) of subsection (7) of section 1002.33, Florida
   25  Statutes, are amended to read:
   26         1002.33 Charter schools.—
   27         (6) APPLICATION PROCESS AND REVIEW.—Charter school
   28  applications are subject to the following requirements:
   29         (a) A person or entity wishing to open a charter school
   30  shall prepare and submit an application on a model application
   31  form prepared by the Department of Education which:
   32         1. Demonstrates how the school will use the guiding
   33  principles and meet the statutorily defined purpose of a charter
   34  school.
   35         2. Provides a detailed curriculum plan that illustrates how
   36  students will be provided services to attain the Sunshine State
   37  Standards.
   38         3. Contains goals and objectives for improving student
   39  learning and measuring that improvement. These goals and
   40  objectives must indicate how much academic improvement students
   41  are expected to show each year, how success will be evaluated,
   42  and the specific results to be attained through instruction.
   43         4. Describes the reading curriculum and differentiated
   44  strategies that will be used for students reading at grade level
   45  or higher and a separate curriculum and strategies for students
   46  who are reading below grade level. A sponsor shall deny a
   47  charter if the school does not propose a reading curriculum that
   48  is consistent with effective teaching strategies that are
   49  grounded in scientifically based reading research.
   50         5. Contains an annual financial plan for each year
   51  requested by the charter for operation of the school for up to 5
   52  years. This plan must contain anticipated fund balances based on
   53  revenue projections, a spending plan based on projected revenues
   54  and expenses, and a description of controls that will safeguard
   55  finances and projected enrollment trends.
   56         6. Contains additional information a sponsor may require,
   57  which shall be attached as an addendum to the charter school
   58  application described in this paragraph.
   59         7. Contains a list of all charter schools currently or
   60  previously operated by the applicant, applicant group, or
   61  proposed management company and the grades and success or
   62  failure of such schools, including, but not limited to, whether
   63  the school’s charter was canceled within 2 years of opening.
   64         8.7. For the establishment of a virtual charter school,
   65  documents that the applicant has contracted with a provider of
   66  virtual instruction services pursuant to s. 1002.45(1)(d).
   67         (b) A sponsor shall receive and review all applications for
   68  a charter school using an evaluation instrument developed by the
   69  Department of Education and shall consider the performance of
   70  all charter schools currently or previously operated by the
   71  applicant, applicant group, or proposed management company. A
   72  sponsor may deny an application by an applicant, applicant
   73  group, or proposed management company that has had a previous
   74  charter school failure. A sponsor shall receive and consider
   75  charter school applications received on or before August 1 of
   76  each calendar year for charter schools to be opened at the
   77  beginning of the school district’s next school year, or to be
   78  opened at a time agreed to by the applicant and the sponsor. A
   79  sponsor may not refuse to receive a charter school application
   80  submitted before August 1 and may receive an application
   81  submitted later than August 1 if it chooses. In order to
   82  facilitate greater collaboration in the application process, an
   83  applicant may submit a draft charter school application on or
   84  before May 1 with an application fee of $500. If a draft
   85  application is timely submitted, the sponsor shall review and
   86  provide feedback as to material deficiencies in the application
   87  by July 1. The applicant shall then have until August 1 to
   88  resubmit a revised and final application. The sponsor may
   89  approve the draft application. A sponsor may not charge an
   90  applicant for a charter any fee for the processing or
   91  consideration of an application, and a sponsor may not base its
   92  consideration or approval of a final application upon the
   93  promise of future payment of any kind. Before approving or
   94  denying any final application, the sponsor shall allow the
   95  applicant, upon receipt of written notification, at least 7
   96  calendar days to make technical or nonsubstantive corrections
   97  and clarifications, including, but not limited to, corrections
   98  of grammatical, typographical, and like errors or missing
   99  signatures, if such errors are identified by the sponsor as
  100  cause to deny the final application.
  101         1. In order to facilitate an accurate budget projection
  102  process, a sponsor shall be held harmless for FTE students who
  103  are not included in the FTE projection due to approval of
  104  charter school applications after the FTE projection deadline.
  105  In a further effort to facilitate an accurate budget projection,
  106  within 15 calendar days after receipt of a charter school
  107  application, a sponsor shall report to the Department of
  108  Education the name of the applicant entity, the proposed charter
  109  school location, and its projected FTE.
  110         2. In order to ensure fiscal responsibility, an application
  111  for a charter school shall include a full accounting of expected
  112  assets, a projection of expected sources and amounts of income,
  113  including income derived from projected student enrollments and
  114  from community support, and an expense projection that includes
  115  full accounting of the costs of operation, including start-up
  116  costs. To ensure continued financial responsibility, a charter
  117  school shall submit monthly financial statements for the first
  118  year of operation which include a full accounting of the costs
  119  of operation and sources of income. If a school’s financial
  120  statement indicates that the school is not financially viable,
  121  the school must also prepare and submit a plan that describes
  122  specific actions the school will take to become viable.
  123         3.a. A sponsor shall by a majority vote approve or deny an
  124  application no later than 60 calendar days after the application
  125  is received, unless the sponsor and the applicant mutually agree
  126  in writing to temporarily postpone the vote to a specific date,
  127  at which time the sponsor shall by a majority vote approve or
  128  deny the application. If the sponsor fails to act on the
  129  application, an applicant may appeal to the State Board of
  130  Education as provided in paragraph (c). If an application is
  131  denied, the sponsor shall, within 10 calendar days after such
  132  denial, articulate in writing the specific reasons, based upon
  133  good cause, supporting its denial of the charter application and
  134  shall provide the letter of denial and supporting documentation
  135  to the applicant and to the Department of Education.
  136         b. An application submitted by a high-performing charter
  137  school identified pursuant to s. 1002.331 may be denied by the
  138  sponsor only if the sponsor demonstrates by clear and convincing
  139  evidence that:
  140         (I) The application does not materially comply with the
  141  requirements in paragraph (a);
  142         (II) The charter school proposed in the application does
  143  not materially comply with the requirements in paragraphs
  144  (9)(a)-(f);
  145         (III) The proposed charter school’s educational program
  146  does not substantially replicate that of the applicant or one of
  147  the applicant’s high-performing charter schools;
  148         (IV) The applicant has made a material misrepresentation or
  149  false statement or concealed an essential or material fact
  150  during the application process; or
  151         (V) The proposed charter school’s educational program and
  152  financial management practices do not materially comply with the
  153  requirements of this section.
  155  Material noncompliance is a failure to follow requirements or a
  156  violation of prohibitions applicable to charter school
  157  applications, which failure is quantitatively or qualitatively
  158  significant either individually or when aggregated with other
  159  noncompliance. An applicant is considered to be replicating a
  160  high-performing charter school if the proposed school is
  161  substantially similar to at least one of the applicant’s high
  162  performing charter schools and the organization or individuals
  163  involved in the establishment and operation of the proposed
  164  school are significantly involved in the operation of replicated
  165  schools.
  166         c. If the sponsor denies an application submitted by a
  167  high-performing charter school, the sponsor must, within 10
  168  calendar days after such denial, state in writing the specific
  169  reasons, based upon the criteria in sub-subparagraph b.,
  170  supporting its denial of the application and must provide the
  171  letter of denial and supporting documentation to the applicant
  172  and to the Department of Education. The applicant may appeal the
  173  sponsor’s denial of the application directly to the State Board
  174  of Education pursuant to sub-subparagraph (c)3.b.
  175         4. For budget projection purposes, the sponsor shall report
  176  to the Department of Education the approval or denial of a
  177  charter application within 10 calendar days after such approval
  178  or denial. In the event of approval, the report to the
  179  Department of Education shall include the final projected FTE
  180  for the approved charter school.
  181         5. Upon approval of a charter application, the initial
  182  startup shall commence with the beginning of the public school
  183  calendar for the district in which the charter is granted unless
  184  the sponsor allows a waiver of this subparagraph for good cause.
  185         (7) CHARTER.—The major issues involving the operation of a
  186  charter school shall be considered in advance and written into
  187  the charter. The charter shall be signed by the governing board
  188  of the charter school and the sponsor, following a public
  189  hearing to ensure community input.
  190         (a) The charter shall address and criteria for approval of
  191  the charter shall be based on:
  192         1. The school’s mission, the students to be served, and the
  193  ages and grades to be included.
  194         2. The focus of the curriculum, the instructional methods
  195  to be used, any distinctive instructional techniques to be
  196  employed, and identification and acquisition of appropriate
  197  technologies needed to improve educational and administrative
  198  performance which include a means for promoting safe, ethical,
  199  and appropriate uses of technology which comply with legal and
  200  professional standards.
  201         a. The charter shall ensure that reading is a primary focus
  202  of the curriculum and that resources are provided to identify
  203  and provide specialized instruction for students who are reading
  204  below grade level. The curriculum and instructional strategies
  205  for reading must be consistent with the Next Generation Sunshine
  206  State Standards and grounded in scientifically based reading
  207  research.
  208         b. In order to provide students with access to diverse
  209  instructional delivery models, to facilitate the integration of
  210  technology within traditional classroom instruction, and to
  211  provide students with the skills they need to compete in the
  212  21st century economy, the Legislature encourages instructional
  213  methods for blended learning courses consisting of both
  214  traditional classroom and online instructional techniques.
  215  Charter schools may implement blended learning courses which
  216  combine traditional classroom instruction and virtual
  217  instruction. Students in a blended learning course must be full
  218  time students of the charter school and receive the online
  219  instruction in a classroom setting at the charter school.
  220  Instructional personnel certified pursuant to s. 1012.55 who
  221  provide virtual instruction for blended learning courses may be
  222  employees of the charter school or may be under contract to
  223  provide instructional services to charter school students. At a
  224  minimum, such instructional personnel must hold an active state
  225  or school district adjunct certification under s. 1012.57 for
  226  the subject area of the blended learning course. The funding and
  227  performance accountability requirements for blended learning
  228  courses are the same as those for traditional courses.
  229         3. The current incoming baseline standard of student
  230  academic achievement, the outcomes to be achieved, and the
  231  method of measurement that will be used. The criteria listed in
  232  this subparagraph shall include a detailed description of:
  233         a. How the baseline student academic achievement levels and
  234  prior rates of academic progress will be established.
  235         b. How these baseline rates will be compared to rates of
  236  academic progress achieved by these same students while
  237  attending the charter school.
  238         c. To the extent possible, how these rates of progress will
  239  be evaluated and compared with rates of progress of other
  240  closely comparable student populations.
  242  The district school board is required to provide academic
  243  student performance data to charter schools for each of their
  244  students coming from the district school system, as well as
  245  rates of academic progress of comparable student populations in
  246  the district school system.
  247         4. The methods used to identify the educational strengths
  248  and needs of students and how well educational goals and
  249  performance standards are met by students attending the charter
  250  school. The methods shall provide a means for the charter school
  251  to ensure accountability to its constituents by analyzing
  252  student performance data and by evaluating the effectiveness and
  253  efficiency of its major educational programs. Students in
  254  charter schools shall, at a minimum, participate in the
  255  statewide assessment program created under s. 1008.22.
  256         5. In secondary charter schools, a method for determining
  257  that a student has satisfied the requirements for graduation in
  258  s. 1002.3105(5), s. 1003.4281, or s. 1003.4282.
  259         6. A method for resolving conflicts between the governing
  260  board of the charter school and the sponsor.
  261         7. The admissions procedures and dismissal procedures,
  262  including the school’s code of student conduct.
  263         8. The ways by which the school will achieve a
  264  racial/ethnic balance reflective of the community it serves or
  265  within the racial/ethnic range of other public schools in the
  266  same school district.
  267         9. The financial and administrative management of the
  268  school, including a reasonable demonstration of the professional
  269  experience or competence of those individuals or organizations
  270  applying to operate the charter school or those hired or
  271  retained to perform such professional services and the
  272  description of clearly delineated responsibilities and the
  273  policies and practices needed to effectively manage the charter
  274  school. A description of internal audit procedures and
  275  establishment of controls to ensure that financial resources are
  276  properly managed must be included. Both public sector and
  277  private sector professional experience shall be equally valid in
  278  such a consideration.
  279         10. The asset and liability projections required in the
  280  application which are incorporated into the charter and shall be
  281  compared with information provided in the annual report of the
  282  charter school.
  283         11. A description of procedures that identify various risks
  284  and provide for a comprehensive approach to reduce the impact of
  285  losses; plans to ensure the safety and security of students and
  286  staff; plans to identify, minimize, and protect others from
  287  violent or disruptive student behavior; and the manner in which
  288  the school will be insured, including whether or not the school
  289  will be required to have liability insurance, and, if so, the
  290  terms and conditions thereof and the amounts of coverage.
  291         12. The term of the charter which shall provide for
  292  cancellation of the charter if insufficient progress has been
  293  made in attaining the student achievement objectives of the
  294  charter and if it is not likely that such objectives can be
  295  achieved before expiration of the charter. The initial term of a
  296  charter shall be for 4 or 5 years. In order to facilitate access
  297  to long-term financial resources for charter school
  298  construction, charter schools that are operated by a
  299  municipality or other public entity as provided by law are
  300  eligible for up to a 15-year charter, subject to approval by the
  301  district school board. A charter lab school is eligible for a
  302  charter for a term of up to 15 years. In addition, to facilitate
  303  access to long-term financial resources for charter school
  304  construction, charter schools that are operated by a private,
  305  not-for-profit, s. 501(c)(3) status corporation are eligible for
  306  up to a 15-year charter, subject to approval by the district
  307  school board. Such long-term charters remain subject to annual
  308  review and may be terminated during the term of the charter, but
  309  only according to the provisions set forth in subsection (8).
  310         13. The facilities to be used and their location. The
  311  sponsor may not require a charter school to have a certificate
  312  of occupancy or a temporary certificate of occupancy for such a
  313  facility earlier than 15 calendar days before the first day of
  314  school.
  315         14. The qualifications to be required of the teachers and
  316  the potential strategies used to recruit, hire, train, and
  317  retain qualified staff to achieve best value.
  318         15. The governance structure of the school, including the
  319  status of the charter school as a public or private employer as
  320  required in paragraph (12)(i).
  321         16. A timetable for implementing the charter which
  322  addresses the implementation of each element thereof and the
  323  date by which the charter shall be awarded in order to meet this
  324  timetable.
  325         17. In the case of an existing public school that is being
  326  converted to charter status, alternative arrangements for
  327  current students who choose not to attend the charter school and
  328  for current teachers who choose not to teach in the charter
  329  school after conversion in accordance with the existing
  330  collective bargaining agreement or district school board rule in
  331  the absence of a collective bargaining agreement. However,
  332  alternative arrangements may shall not be required for current
  333  teachers who choose not to teach in a charter lab school, except
  334  as authorized by the employment policies of the state university
  335  which grants the charter to the lab school.
  336         18. Full disclosure of the identity of all relatives
  337  employed by the charter school who are related to the charter
  338  school owner, president, chairperson of the governing board of
  339  directors, superintendent, governing board member, principal,
  340  assistant principal, or any other person employed by the charter
  341  school who has equivalent decisionmaking authority. For the
  342  purpose of this subparagraph, the term “relative” means father,
  343  mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first
  344  cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in
  345  law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law,
  346  stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother,
  347  stepsister, half brother, or half sister.
  348         19. Implementation of the activities authorized under s.
  349  1002.331 by the charter school when it satisfies the eligibility
  350  requirements for a high-performing charter school. A high
  351  performing charter school shall notify its sponsor in writing by
  352  March 1 if it intends to increase enrollment or expand grade
  353  levels the following school year. The written notice shall
  354  specify the amount of the enrollment increase and the grade
  355  levels that will be added, as applicable.
  356         20. Documentation of adequate financial resources to
  357  support the operation of the charter school. Documentation may
  358  include bank statements, financial statements, loan documents,
  359  and any other business and financial records.
  360         Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2015.