Florida needs to invest more money in schools that offer students longer school days and years. And the state should ease regulations on public schools that perform well.
Those are two provocative ideas raised by incoming state House Speaker Richard Corcoran in a recent interview with the head of a South Florida law firm.
Corcoran, who is set to lead the House for two years after the upcoming elections, has already signaled a desire to continue transforming Florida’s education system. Among other things, he’s said he wants to expand school choice and make school performance more transparent.
Florida’s annual state budgets offer dedicated funding for a few charter schools that target low-income children of color from academically struggling areas. One of those, KIPP Jacksonville, is part of one of the nation’s largest nonprofit charter school networks. Another, SEED Miami, is Florida’s only public charter boarding school. Both institutions extend the school day and year beyond what traditional schools offer. The extra state funding is intended to help offset the cost.
In an interview with Ed Pozzoulli, the president of Tripp Scott (a Fort Lauderdale law firm whose clients include some of the state’s biggest charter school chains), Corcoran says the fact Florida doesn’t have dedicated funding to encourage similar institutions “to be in every single urban area, to be in every major city, is a great failing of the state.”
Extending the school day to help disadvantaged students catch up is “far more expensive than a traditional school that our kids are in today, so those funding mechanisms for that school have to be adequate and the same per-hour … as they do for our existing schools,” he says. “That’s going to cost us additional money.”
The state is expected to face a funding squeeze over the next few years. Some observers have predicted K-12 funding will be tight as lawmakers focus on other areas, like state universities. In the interview, however, Corcoran says education at all levels will be a funding priority. He has separately said the House intends to target spending areas for cuts.
Key Florida education officials have repeatedly said they want to bring more top charter school networks to low-income urban neighborhoods of the state, and called for additional funding to support those efforts.
Corcoran also says they state should “completely deregulate” the state’s highest-performing public schools. If a school’s performance ranks in the top 25 percent, he says, the state should keep measuring its results, but otherwise, it should get out of the way, and encourage the school to share its curriculum choices and teaching strategies with others in the state.
“We’re trying to figure out a way where we can incentivize these schools to come, thrive and make sure the right ones who are succeeding are getting the right money and the right deregulation,” he says.
Watch the full interview below.