Florida Senate - 2021                                    SB 1468
       By Senator Gruters
       23-01333A-21                                          20211468__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to charter schools; amending s.
    3         1002.33, F.S.; revising requirements for the charter
    4         school application process; authorizing certain assets
    5         of specified charter schools to be used for certain
    6         other charter schools across the state; amending s.
    7         1002.331, F.S.; revising provisions relating to the
    8         opening of additional high-performing charter schools;
    9         providing applicability; amending s. 1002.45, F.S.;
   10         authorizing a virtual charter school to provide part
   11         time virtual instruction and be an approved provider;
   12         authorizing a virtual charter school to contract with
   13         a public or charter school, rather than enter into an
   14         agreement with a school district, for specified
   15         purposes; providing an effective date.
   17  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   19         Section 1. Paragraph (b) of subsection (5), paragraph (b)
   20  of subsection (6), and paragraph (b) of subsection (17) of
   21  section 1002.33, Florida Statutes, are amended to read:
   22         1002.33 Charter schools.—
   23         (5) SPONSOR; DUTIES.—
   24         (b) Sponsor duties.—
   25         1.a. The sponsor shall monitor and review the charter
   26  school in its progress toward the goals established in the
   27  charter.
   28         b. The sponsor shall monitor the revenues and expenditures
   29  of the charter school and perform the duties provided in s.
   30  1002.345.
   31         c. The sponsor may approve a charter for a charter school
   32  before the applicant has identified space, equipment, or
   33  personnel, if the applicant indicates approval is necessary for
   34  it to raise working funds.
   35         d. The sponsor shall not apply its policies to a charter
   36  school unless mutually agreed to by both the sponsor and the
   37  charter school. If the sponsor subsequently amends any agreed
   38  upon sponsor policy, the version of the policy in effect at the
   39  time of the execution of the charter, or any subsequent
   40  modification thereof, shall remain in effect and the sponsor may
   41  not hold the charter school responsible for any provision of a
   42  newly revised policy until the revised policy is mutually agreed
   43  upon.
   44         e. The sponsor shall ensure that the charter is innovative
   45  and consistent with the state education goals established by s.
   46  1000.03(5).
   47         f. The sponsor shall ensure that the charter school
   48  participates in the state’s education accountability system. If
   49  a charter school falls short of performance measures included in
   50  the approved charter, the sponsor shall report such shortcomings
   51  to the Department of Education.
   52         g. The sponsor shall not be liable for civil damages under
   53  state law for personal injury, property damage, or death
   54  resulting from an act or omission of an officer, employee,
   55  agent, or governing body of the charter school.
   56         h. The sponsor shall not be liable for civil damages under
   57  state law for any employment actions taken by an officer,
   58  employee, agent, or governing body of the charter school.
   59         i. The sponsor’s duties to monitor the charter school shall
   60  not constitute the basis for a private cause of action.
   61         j. The sponsor shall not impose additional reporting
   62  requirements on a charter school without providing reasonable
   63  and specific justification in writing to the charter school.
   64         k. The sponsor shall submit an annual report to the
   65  Department of Education in a web-based format to be determined
   66  by the department.
   67         (I) The report shall include the following information:
   68         (A) The number of draft applications received on or before
   69  May 1 and each applicant’s contact information.
   70         (B) The number of final applications received on or before
   71  August 1 and each applicant’s contact information.
   72         (C) The date each application was approved, denied, or
   73  withdrawn.
   74         (D) The date each final contract was executed.
   75         (II) Beginning August 31, 2013, and each year thereafter,
   76  the sponsor shall submit to the department the information for
   77  the applications submitted the previous year.
   78         (III) The department shall compile an annual report, by
   79  district, and post the report on its website by November 1 of
   80  each year.
   81         2. Immunity for the sponsor of a charter school under
   82  subparagraph 1. applies only with respect to acts or omissions
   83  not under the sponsor’s direct authority as described in this
   84  section.
   85         3. This paragraph does not waive a district school board’s
   86  sovereign immunity.
   87         4. A Florida College System institution may work with the
   88  school district or school districts in its designated service
   89  area to develop charter schools that offer secondary education.
   90  These charter schools must include an option for students to
   91  receive an associate degree upon high school graduation. If a
   92  Florida College System institution operates an approved teacher
   93  preparation program under s. 1004.04 or s. 1004.85, the
   94  institution may operate no more than one charter school that
   95  serves students in kindergarten through grade 12. In
   96  kindergarten through grade 8, the charter school shall implement
   97  innovative blended learning instructional models in which, for a
   98  given course, a student learns in part through online delivery
   99  of content and instruction with some element of student control
  100  over time, place, path, or pace and in part at a supervised
  101  brick-and-mortar location away from home. A student in a blended
  102  learning course must be a full-time student of the charter
  103  school and receive the online instruction in a classroom setting
  104  at the charter school. District school boards shall cooperate
  105  with and assist the Florida College System institution on the
  106  charter application. Florida College System institution
  107  applications for charter schools are not subject to the time
  108  deadlines outlined in subsection (6) and may be approved by the
  109  district school board at any time during the year. Florida
  110  College System institutions may not report FTE for any students
  111  who receive FTE funding through the Florida Education Finance
  112  Program.
  113         5. A school district may enter into nonexclusive interlocal
  114  agreements with federal and state agencies, counties,
  115  municipalities, and other governmental entities that operate
  116  within the geographical borders of the school district to act on
  117  behalf of such governmental entities in the inspection,
  118  issuance, and other necessary activities for all necessary
  119  permits, licenses, and other permissions that a charter school
  120  needs in order for development, construction, or operation. A
  121  charter school may use, but may not be required to use, a school
  122  district for these services. The interlocal agreement must
  123  include, but need not be limited to, the identification of fees
  124  that charter schools will be charged for such services. The fees
  125  must consist of the governmental entity’s fees plus a fee for
  126  the school district to recover no more than actual costs for
  127  providing such services. These services and fees are not
  128  included within the services to be provided pursuant to
  129  subsection (20).
  130         (6) APPLICATION PROCESS AND REVIEW.—Charter school
  131  applications are subject to the following requirements:
  132         (b) A sponsor shall receive and review all applications for
  133  a charter school using the evaluation instrument developed by
  134  the Department of Education. A sponsor shall receive and
  135  consider charter school applications received during on or
  136  before August 1 of each calendar year for charter schools to be
  137  opened at the beginning of the school district’s next school
  138  year, or to be opened at a time determined agreed to by the
  139  applicant and the sponsor. A sponsor may not refuse to receive a
  140  charter school application submitted by an applicant during the
  141  calendar year before August 1 and may receive an application
  142  submitted later than August 1 if it chooses. Beginning in 2018
  143  and thereafter, a sponsor shall receive and consider charter
  144  school applications received on or before February 1 of each
  145  calendar year for charter schools to be opened 18 months later
  146  at the beginning of the school district’s school year, or to be
  147  opened at a time determined by the applicant. A sponsor may not
  148  refuse to receive a charter school application submitted before
  149  February 1 and may receive an application submitted later than
  150  February 1 if it chooses. A sponsor may not charge an applicant
  151  for a charter any fee for the processing or consideration of an
  152  application, and a sponsor may not base its consideration or
  153  approval of a final application upon the promise of future
  154  payment of any kind. Before approving or denying any
  155  application, the sponsor shall allow the applicant, upon receipt
  156  of written notification, at least 7 calendar days to make
  157  technical or nonsubstantive corrections and clarifications,
  158  including, but not limited to, corrections of grammatical,
  159  typographical, and like errors or missing signatures, if such
  160  errors are identified by the sponsor as cause to deny the final
  161  application.
  162         1. In order to facilitate an accurate budget projection
  163  process, a sponsor shall be held harmless for FTE students who
  164  are not included in the FTE projection due to approval of
  165  charter school applications after the FTE projection deadline.
  166  In a further effort to facilitate an accurate budget projection,
  167  within 15 calendar days after receipt of a charter school
  168  application, a sponsor shall report to the Department of
  169  Education the name of the applicant entity, the proposed charter
  170  school location, and its projected FTE.
  171         2. In order to ensure fiscal responsibility, an application
  172  for a charter school shall include a full accounting of expected
  173  assets, a projection of expected sources and amounts of income,
  174  including income derived from projected student enrollments and
  175  from community support, and an expense projection that includes
  176  full accounting of the costs of operation, including start-up
  177  costs.
  178         3.a. A sponsor shall by a majority vote approve or deny an
  179  application no later than 90 calendar days after the application
  180  is received, unless the sponsor and the applicant mutually agree
  181  in writing to temporarily postpone the vote to a specific date,
  182  at which time the sponsor shall by a majority vote approve or
  183  deny the application. If the sponsor fails to act on the
  184  application, an applicant may appeal to the State Board of
  185  Education as provided in paragraph (c). If an application is
  186  denied, the sponsor shall, within 10 calendar days after such
  187  denial, articulate in writing the specific reasons, based upon
  188  good cause, supporting its denial of the application and shall
  189  provide the letter of denial and supporting documentation to the
  190  applicant and to the Department of Education.
  191         b. An application submitted by a high-performing charter
  192  school identified pursuant to s. 1002.331 or a high-performing
  193  charter school system identified pursuant to s. 1002.332 may be
  194  denied by the sponsor only if the sponsor demonstrates by clear
  195  and convincing evidence that:
  196         (I) The application of a high-performing charter school
  197  does not materially comply with the requirements in paragraph
  198  (a) or, for a high-performing charter school system, the
  199  application does not materially comply with s. 1002.332(2)(b);
  200         (II) The charter school proposed in the application does
  201  not materially comply with the requirements in paragraphs
  202  (9)(a)-(f);
  203         (III) The proposed charter school’s educational program
  204  does not substantially replicate that of the applicant or one of
  205  the applicant’s high-performing charter schools;
  206         (IV) The applicant has made a material misrepresentation or
  207  false statement or concealed an essential or material fact
  208  during the application process; or
  209         (V) The proposed charter school’s educational program and
  210  financial management practices do not materially comply with the
  211  requirements of this section.
  213  Material noncompliance is a failure to follow requirements or a
  214  violation of prohibitions applicable to charter school
  215  applications, which failure is quantitatively or qualitatively
  216  significant either individually or when aggregated with other
  217  noncompliance. An applicant is considered to be replicating a
  218  high-performing charter school if the proposed school is
  219  substantially similar to at least one of the applicant’s high
  220  performing charter schools and the organization or individuals
  221  involved in the establishment and operation of the proposed
  222  school are significantly involved in the operation of replicated
  223  schools.
  224         c. If the sponsor denies an application submitted by a
  225  high-performing charter school or a high-performing charter
  226  school system, the sponsor must, within 10 calendar days after
  227  such denial, state in writing the specific reasons, based upon
  228  the criteria in sub-subparagraph b., supporting its denial of
  229  the application and must provide the letter of denial and
  230  supporting documentation to the applicant and to the Department
  231  of Education. The applicant may appeal the sponsor’s denial of
  232  the application in accordance with paragraph (c).
  233         4. For budget projection purposes, the sponsor shall report
  234  to the Department of Education the approval or denial of an
  235  application within 10 calendar days after such approval or
  236  denial. In the event of approval, the report to the Department
  237  of Education shall include the final projected FTE for the
  238  approved charter school.
  239         5. Upon approval of an application, the initial startup
  240  shall commence with the beginning of the public school calendar
  241  for the district in which the charter is granted. A charter
  242  school may defer the opening of the school’s operations for up
  243  to 3 years to provide time for adequate facility planning. The
  244  charter school must provide written notice of such intent to the
  245  sponsor and the parents of enrolled students at least 30
  246  calendar days before the first day of school.
  247         (17) FUNDING.—Students enrolled in a charter school,
  248  regardless of the sponsorship, shall be funded as if they are in
  249  a basic program or a special program, the same as students
  250  enrolled in other public schools in the school district. Funding
  251  for a charter lab school shall be as provided in s. 1002.32.
  252         (b) The basis for the agreement for funding students
  253  enrolled in a charter school shall be the sum of the school
  254  district’s operating funds from the Florida Education Finance
  255  Program as provided in s. 1011.62 and the General Appropriations
  256  Act, including gross state and local funds, discretionary
  257  lottery funds, and funds from the school district’s current
  258  operating discretionary millage levy; divided by total funded
  259  weighted full-time equivalent students in the school district;
  260  multiplied by the weighted full-time equivalent students for the
  261  charter school. Charter schools whose students or programs meet
  262  the eligibility criteria in law are entitled to their
  263  proportionate share of categorical program funds included in the
  264  total funds available in the Florida Education Finance Program
  265  by the Legislature, including transportation, the research-based
  266  reading allocation, and the Florida digital classrooms
  267  allocation. Total funding for each charter school shall be
  268  recalculated during the year to reflect the revised calculations
  269  under the Florida Education Finance Program by the state and the
  270  actual weighted full-time equivalent students reported by the
  271  charter school during the full-time equivalent student survey
  272  periods designated by the Commissioner of Education. For charter
  273  schools operated by a not-for-profit or municipal entity, any
  274  unrestricted current and capital assets identified in the
  275  charter school’s annual financial audit may be used for other
  276  charter schools operated by the not-for-profit or municipal
  277  entity within this state the school district. Unrestricted
  278  current assets shall be used in accordance with s. 1011.62, and
  279  any unrestricted capital assets shall be used in accordance with
  280  s. 1013.62(2).
  281         Section 2. Paragraph (b) of subsection (3) of section
  282  1002.331, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
  283         1002.331 High-performing charter schools.—
  284         (3)
  285         (b) A high-performing charter school may submit not
  286  establish more than two applications for a charter school
  287  schools within the state under paragraph (a) to be opened at a
  288  time determined by the high-performing charter school in any
  289  year. A subsequent application to establish a charter school
  290  under paragraph (a) may not be submitted unless each charter
  291  school applicant commences operations or an application is
  292  otherwise withdrawn established in this manner achieves high
  293  performing charter school status. However, a high-performing
  294  charter school may establish more than one charter school within
  295  the state under paragraph (a) in any year if it operates in the
  296  area of a persistently low-performing school and serves students
  297  from that school. This paragraph applies to any high-performing
  298  charter school with an existing approved application.
  299         Section 3. Paragraph (d) of subsection (1) of section
  300  1002.45, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
  301         1002.45 Virtual instruction programs.—
  302         (1) PROGRAM.—
  303         (d) A virtual charter school may provide full-time or part
  304  time virtual instruction for students in kindergarten through
  305  grade 12 if the virtual charter school has a charter approved
  306  pursuant to s. 1002.33 authorizing full-time virtual
  307  instruction. A virtual charter school may:
  308         1. Contract with the Florida Virtual School.
  309         2. Contract with or be an approved provider under
  310  subsection (2).
  311         3. Contract with any public school or charter school Enter
  312  into an agreement with a school district to allow the
  313  participation of the virtual charter school’s students in
  314  courses that the virtual school is unable to provide the school
  315  district’s virtual instruction program. The agreement must
  316  indicate a process for reporting of student enrollment and the
  317  transfer of funds required by paragraph (7)(e).
  318         Section 4. This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.