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PRESS RELEASE

June 26, 2006

Russell Schweiss
(850) 488-5394
Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Governor Bush Signs Bill Creating New Commission for Charter Schools
More school choice options will be available for Florida families

TALLAHASSEE — Governor Jeb Bush today signed House Bill 135, which creates a state-level charter school authorizer — the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission. This independent statewide commission will directly sponsor charter schools and authorize municipalities, state universities, community colleges and additional entities to co-sponsor charter schools in Florida, expanding educational opportunities for students.

"Florida's charter schools offer a valuable public school option for students," said Governor Bush. "This legislation opens the door for the expansion of more high quality charter schools in Florida, and the newly created Commission will ensure that these schools are held accountable for serving student needs."

Currently, local school boards and select universities are the only entities allowed to authorize charter schools in Florida. The Commission, under the supervision of the State Board of Education, will provide a higher level of quality, efficiency, transparency and accountability. The seven-member Commission will be appointed by the State Board of Education based on recommendations from the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. The Commission will authorize and act as a sponsor of charter schools, approve or deny Florida Schools of Excellence (FSE) charter school applications, renew or terminate charters and conduct facility and curriculum reviews.

"With its primary focus being to develop and support charter schools in order to better meet growing and diverse needs, this Commission will ensure that charter schools of the highest academic quality are approved and supported throughout the state," said Senator Stephen Wise.

"Florida does not embrace a one-size-fits-all approach to education," said Representative Ralph Arza. "What this bill and the A++ Plan for Education do for the state is to ensure a high-performing education system that helps every student achieve success. They give parents and students an equal educational opportunity."

Since the state's first five charter schools opened in 1996, public charter schools have focused on providing parents with smaller classes, alternative curriculum and increased opportunities for involvement in their children's education. With 334 public charter schools currently operating, and more than 92,000 students participating, Florida has the third highest number of public charter schools in the nation.

"Now more students than ever before will have the opportunity to take advantage of this distinctive and innovative approach to education," said Representative John Stargel. "This program serves all of our students and provides real choices to parents for their children's success."

Charter schools are public schools that are independently designed and operated and are among the fastest growing school choice options in Florida. They are open to all students, regardless of income, gender, race or religion. Charter schools tend to attract students who struggle academically and cover a spectrum of educational needs from specializing in the performing arts to technical training.

"Today, Governor Bush has increased the number of quality education choices for Florida's families," said Commissioner Winn. "This commission will improve the process for creating and managing charter schools statewide."

"This new law ensures that more and better quality charter schools will evolve to serve students in Florida," said Center for Education Reform President Jeanne Allen. "The new authorizer is a groundbreaking development that draws on our best experiences nationwide and is likely to be a model for other states. It is no surprise that such innovation comes from a state that has led the way in all education reform."

To learn more about charter schools in Florida, visit the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice Office website at www.floridaschoolchoice.org.