Leroy Collins Institute Releases Study on Charter Schools Across Florida

On Thursday, the LeRoy Collins Institute released a study on Florida’s charter schools that analyzed the trends in racial and economic diversity, accountability, innovation, and transparency, and offered recommendations for how Florida charter schools can improve.

According to the institute, the report, labeled “Florida Charter Schools: Not as Good, Or as Bad, as Advertised,” offered mixed marks on charter schools delivering “both good and not good news to critics and supporters of charter schools alike” since, “in terms of segregation, location and student performance, charter schools are very similar to traditional schools.”

Lester Abberger, the board chair of the LeRoy Collins Institute, weighed in on the report on Thursday.

“The Collins Institute’s careful study of charter schools provides non-partisan clarity to what has become a sometimes heated discourse,” said Abberger.“While it does not booster the claims of either side, it does something more important— provides useful information for Florida citizens, parents and students.”

Some of the key findings from the report include:

  • Florida’s charter schools are not less racially diverse but are less economically diverse than traditional schools.
  • Charter schools do not adversely affect the racial and economic segregation of nearby traditional schools.
  • Florida’s system of accountability and oversight regarding charter schools is strong but can be improved.
  • Transparency is key to parental choice yet is poor in both charter and traditional schools.
  • Innovation is key but is not adequately measured or shared.
  • Florida has a very active school choice environment, with options for parents that include traditional schools, charter schools, private schools, open enrollment policies and scholarships for students who meet specific criteria. To date, some 10 percent of Florida students are enrolled in charter schools, about double the percentage than the national average.

Based on the research found in the report, the LeRoy Collins Institute has laid out several recommendations focused around the areas of accountability, innovation, transparency, and racial and economic diversity, which include:

  • The state should revisit the purpose of charter schools and systematically analyze how the state policy has evolved and how the charter school sector has changed since the initial law.
  • The state should reaffirm its original commitment to racial diversity in charter schools and add a commitment to diversity in students with a varying economic background.
  • Efforts to skirt district school board accountability through such means as allowing charter schools to be authorized by the state should be avoided.
  • The state should take a more proactive role in identifying innovative schools and sharing successful innovative practices with both charter and traditional school districts.
  • Charters whose students substantially differ from the racial/ethnic and economically disadvantaged characteristics of the neighborhood should be required to work with the district to develop and implement a diversity plan.

“Our hope is that this study can lead to a careful assessment of the development of charter schools in Florida,” said Carol Weissert, the director of the LeRoy Collins Institute. “We hope the state will take this opportunity to do just this through a revisiting of the charter school laws as they have developed over the past two decades.”