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PRESS RELEASE

November 29, 2006

Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Department of Education Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice Holds 2006 Florida Charter School Conference
Florida charter schools celebrate 10th anniversary

ORLANDO — The Department of Education Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice today kicked off the 2006 Florida Charter School Conference Charter Schools: A Decade of Progress at the Wyndham Orlando Resort in Orlando. More than 450 charter school administrators, district staff and policy makers from throughout the state will convene to hear Florida State Board of Education Chairman Philip Handy, Vice Chair T. Willard Fair, Education Commissioner John L. Winn, and other national and state charter school leaders share the successes of Florida's charter schools. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of charter schools in Florida.

"Florida's charter schools offer students specialized education to meet their academic goals," said Commissioner Winn. "Charter schools are a critical component in Florida's education system and provide an important option for students and families."

Commissioner Winn and U.S. Department of Education Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement will open the session today during the conference kick-off. Tomorrow, during the opening general session, Florida Atlantic University President Frank Brogan will discuss the origins of charter schools in Florida. Also on Thursday, Chairman Handy and Vice Chair Fair will discuss Florida's commitment to charter schools and highlight the success of Liberty City Charter School, one of the first charter schools to open in Florida 10 years ago. Concurrent sessions will run throughout the conference.

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 over 350 public charter schools currently operating, and close to 100,000 students enrolled in charter schools, Florida has the third highest number of public charter schools in the nation and the second largest number of charter school students.

Charter schools are among the fastest growing school choice options in Florida. Charter schools are public schools that are independently designed and operated and committed to improving the academic achievement of every student. Charter schools are largely free to innovate, and 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.

For a conference agenda and a complete listing of break-out sessions, visit www.floridaschoolchoice.org/Information/Charter_Schools/charter_school_conference.asp.