Like my home state of South Carolina, Florida has had a long tremulous history with promoting school options. While laws have been enacted in both states to expand public school choice, families are still unable to fully exercise their right to choose an education that fulfills their needs due to the lack of equitable funding for choice schools.
In a recent opinion-editorial featured in The Ledger, Lake Wales Charter Schools Superintendent Jesse L. Jackson shared his recommendations to promote successful charter schools in the state.
According to a report released by the Florida TaxWatch Center for Educational Performance and Accountability, lack of equitable funding for both operational and capital purposes has created substantial financial disadvantages for charter schools in the state. In Florida, districts can charge an administrative fee based on five percent of the available per student funds for as many as 250 students. For high-performing charters, districts are allowed to charge two percent for up to 250 students.
In the article, Jackson offers some suggestions as to how to limit the impact of charters on traditional schools, while still promoting an equal playing field for both educational options. Requiring charters and traditional schools to form enrollment agreements would squash the myth that charters hurt traditional public schools by taking all of their students. Fair enrollment numbers allow both schools to serve their population.
Another approach Jackson offers to ensure equality between the two educational choices is to allow charters to form their own local education agencies. Allowing charters to be their own LEA removes their dependency on their local district for federal and state funds, thus debunking another myth put forth by traditional school advocates that charters siphon too much money from traditional brick-and-mortars.
Alternative school options, such as charters and online public schools, spark competition and innovation in the education arena. Maintaining the status quo just isn't enough for our children. The traditional school setting may work for some students, but those that it has failed shouldn't be forced to stay bound to a school that does not work. We need viable and well-funded educational options to ensure our children are given their equal shot at a brighter future.