Four districts apply for Florida charter school collaboration grants

Four of Florida’s largest urban school districts have applied for state grants intended help bring high-impact charter school networks into areas with high academic needs.

Six districts had a Friday deadline to submit proposals for the first-of-its-kind program, which is intended to stoke collaborations between districts and charter schools. The four districts to submit proposals to the state Department of Education were Broward, Miami-Dade, Duval and Hillsborough.

Documents seeking proposals for the grants, funded by Race to the Top and private philanthropy, say the plan calls for awarding three districts grants up to $3 million each. State charter school officials say they hope to decide which districts will receive grants before the end of the year.

Two of the districts now in contention – Miami-Dade and Duval – applied for initial planning grants, which means some hints of their plans have already been released. In a letter to the department, Duval schools officials said they were interested in expanding the district’s relationship with KIPP, which already operates a middle school and an elementary school in Jacksonville.

DCPS believes in educating all students and supporting them to reach their academic and civic potential, whether this occurs in traditional public schools or in a charter school. The community expects us to demand excellence at all schools. We believe this grant offers us the opportunity for the district to strengthen its relationship with a charter organization that has a proven track record of raising student achievement nationally, and most importantly, in Jacksonville. That charter organization is Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). What separates KIPP from other charter operators is their commitment to serving at-risk youth coupled with their ability to show results.

Hillsborough’s proposal involves working with a charter organization to target over-age middle-school students – a group considered at risk of dropping out, spokesman Stephen Hegarty said in an email. He said the district has not yet chosen the charter organization it plans to work with.

As noted recently in Education Week, what sets Florida’s effort apart from district-charter collaborations in other places is that it’s being driven by the state, and will be implemented in multiple districts at the same time.

In an interview with redefinED, Sarah Yatsko, a senior research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, said for that reason, Florida’s effort will likely be watched around the country.

“I find this idea, and the work in Florida, to be exciting,” she said. “I do view it as the next phase of evolution in this work.”

Charter Schools