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Palm Coast Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2017 1 year ago

School Board wrestles with new state laws that mandate more recess and give charter schools extra perks

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House Bill 7069 was unanimously opposed by the Flagler School Board in a letter previously sent to Gov. Rick Scott.
by: Paige Wilson Community Editor

The Flagler School Board highlighted the local effects of recently instated House Bill 7069 during the School Board workshop on Tuesday, June 20. The board had previously sent a signed letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott to voice its unanimous disapproval of the education bill. Scott signed the bill into order on Thursday, June 15.

Elementary students to get 100 minutes of recess per week

In addition to the current physical education requirements, elementary students must now be provided 20 minutes of free play each day.

The School Board is awaiting further directions from the state on how to implement the recess rule, but discussed the possibility of taking time from non-required elective classes, like music and the arts.

“We don't have 20 minutes just sitting aside for students,” Chairman Trevor Tucker said.

Charter schools do not have to adhere to this new rule, and Tucker noted that if recess is beneficial for public schools, then it would logical for students in charter schools to have the same play time.

School Board frustrated at state's perceived favoritism of charter schools

While Flagler County only has two charter schools, Imagine School at Town Center and Palm Harbor Academy, the impact House Bill 7069 has on the district is still a concern for the School Board.

“I have no problem with charter schools,” Tucker said after the meeting. “I just hate that the state is making it 'us versus them.'”

Some of the differentiation in treatment includes charter schools being able to become their own Local Education Agency, yet they would still be included in Flagler Schools’ district grade.

Tucker also noted an example that a broken window in a leased portable at a public school in Flagler County can't legally be fixed with capital dollars, but rather by general taxpayer funds, yet a charter school could use capital dollars to improve privately owned buildings.

“If charter schools need capital improvements, [the state] shouldn't be gutting ours, [it] should be increasing the funding levels,” Tucker said.

School Board member Colleen Conklin voiced that some of the items on the bill appear to give charter schools a leg up, such as charter schools being able to use the funds from the 1.5 discretionary millage to pay for sick and annual leave, while non-charter schools cannot use the discretionary millage for the same purpose.

 “Some of the changes in the charter school legislation are quite concerning, and I’m wondering, how do we ensure that tax dollars are respected — and that we have the greatest level of transparency on how those dollars are being used?” Conklin said.

“I have no problem with charter schools. I just hate that the state is making it 'us versus them.'”

Trevor Tucker, School Board chairman

If a charter school were to shut down or move out, the district would not be able to recover the capital investment because the public doesn’t own the building that it build using tax dollars.

“The reason I’m highlighting some of these items is that I do believe that as we build our legislative platform for next year, we really need to identify some of these issues,” Conklin said. “It just doesn’t seem right that [charter schools] would be able to do some of the things that have been outlined.”

While most items were met with aversion, an item on the bill that could benefit Flagler County provides opportunity for out-of-state dual enrollment with private colleges and universities.

“That’s a bonus for us if we wanted to do it,” District School Board Attorney Kristy Gavin said.

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