Florida state board sets ‘Schools of Hope’ in motion

Starting next month, Florida will open a new avenue for charter school organizations with a track record of lifting achievement for disadvantaged students.

Under a rule approved unanimously by the state Board of Education, charter organizations will be able to apply to become Hope Operators. They’ll then be able to start entering performance-based contracts with school districts with persistently low-performing schools, with a streamlined application process. We outlined that process here.

Approved charters will then be able to start applying for state grants and facilities loans through the $140 million Schools of Hope program.

Parts of the Schools of Hope program still face a legal challenge brought by 13 Florida school districts. A separate lawsuit, now pending before Leon County circuit court, takes aim at the entire statute authorizing the program.

Another branch of the Schools of Hope program is fully in motion. The state board today approved more than $20 million in grants that support transformations of district-run schools. The board had previously approved 11 such schools for funding. It approved another 14 today, reaching the cap of 25 district-run schools.

The schools approved for grants include Midtown Academy, a former charter school taken over by the Pinellas County school district. It’s in line to receive nearly $600,000 to beef up social services, expand early learning opportunities on its campus and provide tutoring for struggling students. The Pinellas school district is also among those fighting the law in court.

The board also approved a grant providing more than $1 million to a newly consolidated elementary school in Hamilton County. The rural district also joined the lawsuit after it learned the new law may force it to find another organization to operate its only high school.

The schools approved for grants also include two from Duval County, one from Volusia and one from Polk. The three districts are also involved in the lawsuits.