Measuring Up

 



Florida

TOTAL SCORE:
156 out of 228

Rank: 8 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1996 Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  625  Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  239,996 Florida made some modifications to its charter school law in 2013. While these changes are a step in the right direction, they were not significant enough to affect Florida’s score and ranking. Florida’s score increased from 151 points in 2013 to 156 points this year. The score changed because of adjustments in our methodology for Component #3 (Multiple Authorizers Available) and further clarification about the specific policies for Component #10 (Educational Service Providers Allowed). Its ranking went from #5 to #8. This drop had more to do with the changes made in other states than with any steps backward in Florida. Potential areas for improvement include creating authorizer accountability requirements and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Florida's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Florida's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Florida law does not place any caps on charter school growth.

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1A. No limits are placed on the number of public charter schools or students (and no geographic limits).

1B. If caps exist, adequate room for growth.

N/A

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Florida law allows new start-ups, public school conversions, and virtual schools.

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2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Florida law allows local school boards, state universities (for lab schools only), and community college district boards of trustees (for charter technical career centers only) to serve as authorizers. While the state only has essentially a single viable authorizer option available, there is considerable authorizing activity.

The law provides an appeals process in which a rejected applicant can appeal to a charter school appeal commission, which makes a recommendation to the state board of education. The law provides that the state board of education can vote to require an authorizer to accept an application. The law requires any appeals involving proposals to replicate a high performing charter school be made directly to the state board of education and requires the authorizer to provide clear and convincing evidence that the application does not meet the requirements specified in law.

There are 625 charter schools open in the state.

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3A. The state allows two or more authorizing options (e.g., school districts and a state charter schools commission) for each applicant with direct application to each authorizer.

4. Authorizer & Overall Program Accountability System Required

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

State law requires each authorizer to submit an annual report to the state department of education that includes the following information: the number of draft applications received on or before May 1 and each applicant's contact information; the number of final applications received on or before August 1 and each applicant's contact information; the date each application was approved, denied, or withdrawn; and, the date each final contract was executed. It does not require the report to summarize the performance of each authorizer’s school portfolio.

Florida law requires the state department of education to annually provide to the State Board of Education, the Commissioner of Education, the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives an analysis and comparison of the overall performance of charter school students, to include all students whose scores are counted as part of the statewide assessment program, versus comparable public school students in the district as determined by the statewide assessment program currently administered in the school district, and other assessments administered pursuant to state law.

It does not require at least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state, an application process for other eligible authorizing entities, a regular review process by authorizer oversight body, and an authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

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4A. At least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state.

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities.

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report, which summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

4D. A regular review process by authorizer oversight body.

4E. Authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

4F. Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Florida law allows an authorizer to withhold up to 5% of a charter school's per-pupil funding for up to 250 students to cover the costs of providing certain administrative and educational services to charter schools as specified in statute. For “high performing” charter schools, the law reduces this amount to 2%. The law provides that authorizers of virtual schools may charge a fee up to 5%.

Florida law provides that if goods and services are made available to a charter school through a contract with an authorizer, then these services must be provided at a rate no greater than actual cost, unless mutually agreed upon by the charter school and the authorizer in a separate contract. If disputes arise over contracted services or contractual matters, the law allows appeals to the state charter school appeals commission.

The law does not allow authorizers to charge any additional fees or surcharges for administrative and educational services beyond five percent. Statute also states that an authorizer may not charge a fee for reviewing applications and cannot base its consideration or approval of an application upon the promise of future payment of any kind.

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5A. Adequate funding from authorizing fees (or other sources).

5B. Guaranteed funding from authorizing fees (or from sources not subject to annual legislative appropriations).

5C. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

5D. Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.

5E. Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

6. Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Florida law provides application elements for all schools and additional application elements for conversion schools and virtual schools.

State board regulations require the use of a model charter school application. Florida’s model charter school application requires information if a school intends to replicate an existing school design, including evidence of success for that school design and that the applicant has the financial and human resources necessary to replicate the design. It also has an entire section on required information related to any proposed usage of educational service providers.

The model charter school application includes an evaluation instrument that authorizers are to use when evaluating charter school applications. Although all local school board authorizers must now use this model application, they are not required to issue RFPs for any interested applicants and to conduct an in-person interview and a public meeting.

Florida law requires authorizers to publicly approve or deny an application within 60 days of receipt, unless mutually extended. If denied, the law requires the sponsor to articulate its reasons in writing within 10 days. The law allows that the applicant can appeal to the charter school appeal commission and the state board of education.

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6A. Application elements for all schools.

6B. Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

6C. Additional application elements specific to virtual schools.

6D. Additional application elements specific when using educational service providers.

6E. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6F. Authorizer-issued request for proposals (including application requirements and approval criteria).

6G. Thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6H. All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

7. Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Florida law requires the creation of charters signed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer. State board regulations have established a model contract form that all sponsors must use.

Florida law broadly requires that the charter agreement address the terms, conditions, and major issues involved in the operation of the school. It specifically defines a range of obligations of the school and certain functions of the authorizer, such as annual review of long term agreements, role in creating financial recovery plans, renewal, and modifying the charter agreement.

Florida law requires the charter to address the current incoming baseline standard of student academic achievement, the outcomes to be achieved, and the method of measurement that will be used. It does not require that charter contracts define academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.

Florida law provides that initial charter terms are for four or five years, with several exceptions. In order to facilitate access to long-term financial resources for charter school construction, the law allows charter schools that are operated by a municipality or other public entity to be eligible for up to a 15-year charter, subject to approval by the district school board. It also provides that a charter lab school is eligible for a charter for a term of up to 15 years. In addition, to facilitate access to long-term financial resources for charter school construction, the law allows charter schools that are operated by a private, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) status corporation to be eligible for up to a 15-year charter, subject to approval by the district school board. Finally, the law provides that a school which meets the requirements to be defined as a “high performing” school shall receive a modification of its charter to a term of 15 years. The law makes such long-term charters subject to annual review and provides that they may be terminated during the term of the charter.

State law requires that contracts address the unique environments of virtual schools.

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7A. Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.

7B. Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. Defining academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged, based on a performance framework that includes measures and metrics for, at a minimum, student academic proficiency and growth, achievement gaps, attendance, recurrent enrollment, postsecondary readiness (high schools), financial performance, and board stewardship (including compliance).

7D. Providing an initial term of five operating years (or a longer term with periodic high-stakes reviews.

7E. Including requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools, if applicable.

N/A

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Florida law requires charter schools to participate in the state’s academic accountability system and charter school governing boards to annually report to their authorizers on the school's progress using an on-line annual accountability report format developed by the state department of education. The law requires the authorizer to pass along these performance reports to the state commissioner of education. Such reports are public records.

The law requires charter schools to commit to viable internal audit procedures and controls, including an annual financial audit. State regulations require charter schools to submit monthly financial statements to authorizers and require authorizers to notify a charter school’s governing board in writing within seven days of determining a deteriorating financial condition as defined in regulation. State regulations require both parties to develop a corrective action plan.

Florida law provides that the authorizer has the responsibility to monitor and review a charter school’s progress towards the goals established in the charter and the revenues and expenditures of the school as well as the responsibility to ensure that the charter school is operating in accordance with its contract and applicable law.
The law provides that a charter school that has earned a grade of "D" or "F" must appear before the authorizer to present information concerning each contract component having noted deficiencies and must submit to the authorizer for approval a school improvement plan to raise student achievement.

If a charter school earns three consecutive grades of "D," two consecutive grades of "D" followed by a grade of "F," or two nonconsecutive grades of "F" within a 3-year period, the law requires the charter school governing board to choose one of the following corrective actions: contract for educational services to be provided directly to students, instructional personnel, and school administrators, as prescribed in state board rule; contract with an outside entity that has a demonstrated record of effectiveness to operate the school; reorganize the school under a new director or principal who is authorized to hire new staff; or voluntarily close the charter school. The law requires a charter school implementing a corrective action that does not improve by at least one letter grade after two full school years of implementing the corrective action to select a different corrective action.

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8A. The collection and analysis of student outcome data at least annually by authorizers (consistent with performance framework outlined in the contract).

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct or require oversight activities.

8D. Annual school performance reports which are made public.

8E. Authorizer notification to their schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

8F. Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

9. Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal, and Revocation Decisions

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Florida law provides that when obligations established in the charter agreement are successfully accomplished (which includes consideration of the school’s performance and financial record over the course of the charter term), authorizers may renew charters.

The law provides that the authorizer shall make student academic achievement for all students the most important factor when determining whether to renew or terminate the charter. It also specifies that non-renewal can result from failure to participate in the state accountability system or failure to meet student performance requirements, inadequate fiscal management, violations of law, or other good cause shown.

The law requires authorizers to terminate a charter if the charter school earns two consecutive grades of "F" unless: the charter school is established to turnaround the performance of a district public school; the charter school serves a student population the majority of which resides in a school zone served by a district public school that earned a grade of "F" in the year before the charter school opened and the charter school earns at least a grade of "D" in its third year of operation (this exception does not apply to a charter school in its fourth year of operation and thereafter); or the state board grants the charter school a waiver of termination if the charter school demonstrates that the learning gains of its students on statewide assessments are comparable to or better than the learning gains of similarly situated students enrolled in nearby district public schools. The waiver is valid for one year and may only be granted once. Charter schools that have been in operation for more than five years are not eligible for a waiver.

The law allows authorizers to grant renewal terms of up to 15 years. It also provides that schools that meet the definitions of being a high performing charter school are automatically renewed for 15 years.

Florida law states that prior to renewing or terminating a charter, the authorizer must notify the school of the proposed action in writing, stating the authorizer’s grounds. The law allows the school to request a formal hearing and allows the authorizer to determine whether it will be with the authorizer or an administrative law judge assigned by the state division of administrative hearing. In the case of non-renewal or termination, the law requires the authorizer to provide a letter stating the action, and the school can appeal to the District Court of Appeals with jurisdiction. State rules clarify that all such hearings are public meetings.

Florida law establishes a dissolution and closure process that addresses the redistribution of funds, treatment of debts and encumbrances, and the reassignment of students.

Florida law does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year, does not require schools seeking renewal to apply for it, and does not require authorizers to issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

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9A. Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

9B. Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.

9C. Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

9D. Clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9E. Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract (in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract).

9F. Authorizer authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9G. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

9H. Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).

9I. All charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

9J. Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

10. Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Florida law permits charter schools to contract with education service providers.

State board regulations require the use of a model charter application form, which requires details on any proposed ESP agreements, including services, performance evaluation measures, fee structure, renewal and termination provisions, and how the relationship with the ESP will further the school’s mission. Regulations also require the application to detail why the ESP was selected, what due diligence efforts were conducted to inform the selection, a summary of the ESP’s history, the background and experience of senior management, and student and financial performance data from other schools using this ESP.

The new model charter contract form requires the inclusion of any ESP agreement, and any changes to the ESP agreement require charter contract modification and approval.

Regulations require the application to explain how the charter school’s governing board will ensure an “arm’s length,” performance-based relationship between the governing board and the ESP. In addition, state law provides that an employee of the charter school, or his or her spouse, or an employee of a charter management organization, or his or her spouse, may not be a member of the governing board of the charter school.

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10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and non-profit) explicitly allowed to operate all or parts of schools.

10B. The charter application requires 1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, including documentation of academic achievement and (if applicable) school management success; and 2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.

10C. A performance contract is required between the independent public charter school board and the ESP, setting forth material terms including but not limited to: performance evaluation measures; methods of contract oversight and enforcement by the charter school board; compensation structure and all fees to be paid to the ESP; and conditions for contract renewal and termination.

10D. The material terms of the ESP performance contract must be approved by the authorizer prior to charter approval.

10E. School governing boards operating as entities completely independent of any educational service provider (e.g., must retain independent oversight authority of their charter schools, and cannot give away their authority via contract).

10F. Existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Public Charter School Boards

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Florida statutes and regulations do not detail clearly that all charter schools are fully fiscally and legally autonomous. For example, they are not recognized as LEAs for the purposes of funding nor does it indicate that schools can sue and be sued in their own names.

Florida law provides that charter schools must be organized as, or be operated by, a nonprofit organization and allows them to be either a private or public employer. The state’s model application requires a description of proposed board member recruitment and development plans and the model application’s evaluation criteria indicates that reviewers must look for a governing board that is legally structured or plans to accomplish it.

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11A. Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds, incur debt, and pledge, assign or encumber assets as collateral).

11B. Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).

11C. School governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Florida law provides that charter schools must be open to any student residing in the district or covered in an inter-district agreement.

Florida law requires charter schools to admit students via a random selection process when the number of applications exceeds the capacity of a program, class, grade level, or building.

Florida law provides that conversions must give enrollment preference to students who would have otherwise attended that public school. It also provides that any charter school must give first preference for admission to dependent children of active-duty military personnel. It does not require them to provide enrollment preferences for prior year students within chartered schools and siblings of students enrolled at a charter school.

Florida law provides that charter schools may give enrollment preference to students who are siblings of a student enrolled in the charter school, students who are the children of a member of the governing board of the charter school, students who are the children of an employee of the charter school, students who are children of a business partner with the school, students who are children of a resident of a municipality that operates a charter school-in-a-municipality, students who have been in a pre-K program in that school, and students who are the children of active-duty members of any branch of the armed forces.

Florida law provides that a charter school may limit the enrollment process only to target the following student populations: students within specific age groups or grade levels; students considered at risk of dropping out of school or academic failure (such students include exceptional education students); students enrolling in a charter school-in-the-workplace or charter school-in-a-municipality; students residing within a reasonable distance of the charter school; students who meet reasonable academic, artistic, or other eligibility standards established by the charter school and included in the charter school application and charter or, in the case of existing charter schools, standards that are consistent with the school's mission and purpose; and students articulating from one charter school to another pursuant to an articulation agreement between the charter schools that has been approved by the authorizer.

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12A. Open enrollment to any student in the state.

12B. Lottery requirements.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, siblings of enrolled students enrolled at a charter school.

12D. Optional enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.

13. Automatic Exemptions from Many State and District Laws and Regulations

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Florida law provides that charter schools are exempt from all state statutes and education code provisions except those explicitly applying to charters, assessment, grading, special education, civil rights, health, safety and welfare, public meetings and records, public inspection, and criminal and civil penalties. It also provides that local school board policies don’t apply to charter schools.

Florida law requires that all charter school teachers must be certified.

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13A. Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.

13B. Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

14. Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Florida law provides that charter schools are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

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14A. Charter schools authorized by non-local board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.

14B. Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

15. Multischool Charter Contracts and/or Multicharter Contract Boards Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Florida law indicates that a governing board that oversees multiple high-performing charter schools in the same district may consolidate those into a single charter. This provision (as well as actual practice) indicates that a board may hold multiple charter contracts. However, there is nothing in statute or rule that specifically requires each school to maintain independent fiscal and academic accountability.

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15A. Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

Florida law provides that charter students are eligible to participate in an interscholastic activity at the public school that a student would otherwise have been assigned to. Also, the state interscholastic association’s rules include charter schools in their definitions of schools eligible to participate in all such activities. Nothing is mentioned about charter school employees having equal access.

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16A. Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs available to non-charter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extra-curricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at non-charter public schools for a fee by a mutual agreement.

17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Florida law provides that the school district authorizer is the LEA, with the schools responsible for providing services and the districts responsible for overseeing the provision of services.

The law does not provide clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools in the same amount or in a manner similar to other LEAs.

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17A. Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.

17B. Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).

18. Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Florida law provides that charter schools should be funded the same as other public schools and that charter schools are entitled to their proportionate share of categorical program funds included in the Florida Education Finance Program, including transportation.

In a national study of charter school funding (Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists), Florida charter schools were receiving on average $8,195 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $10,944 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $2,749 per pupil – or 25.1% - less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals some continued inequities for both operational and capital funding (see component #19 for information on capital issues).

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18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

18B. Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding, and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Florida law provides a per-pupil charter facilities funding program for eligible charter schools. It specifies that a school is eligible if it has been in operation at least three years, is part of an expanded feeder pattern chain, or is accredited. It provides that eligible schools receive per-pupil dollars based on a formula. In 2013, the legislature appropriated $91 million for this fund.

Florida law provides that a local school board may levy up to 1.5 mills for district schools, including charter schools, for the construction, renovation, remodeling, maintenance, and repair of educational facilities, the purchase, lease or lease-purchase of equipment, vehicles, educational facilities and construction materials directly related to the delivery of student instruction, and the rental or lease of educational facilities.

Florida law allows the Florida Industrial Development Financing Act to authorize any county or municipality to issue tax-exempt industrial development bonds to finance the cost of eligible projects, including facilities owned and operated by charter schools.

Florida law allows charter schools to either opt into the facilities rules applicable to other schools or meet local building codes.

Florida law provides an exemption from ad valorem taxes for facilities used to house charter schools.

Florida law provides that charter school facilities are created specifically to address population increases from new residential dwellings and that some or all of the educational impact fees required to be paid in connection with new residential dwellings may be designated for the construction of charter school facilities.

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19A. A per-pupil facilities allowance which annually reflects actual average district capital costs.

19B. A state grant program for charter school facilities.

19C. A state loan program for charter school facilities.

19D. Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allow charter schools to have their own bonding authority.

19E. A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for public charter school facilities.

19F. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to non-charter public schools.

19G. Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.

19H. Prohibition of facility-related requirements stricter than those applied to traditional public schools.

20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Florida law provides that charter schools that opt to be organized as a public employer have equal access to the state retirement system.

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20A. Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.

20B. Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).