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2002 Opinions

Date:   April 17, 2002
Prepared By:   James A. Robinson
Phone:   (850) 488-7707
Suncom:   278-7707
Opinion No.:   02-03
Staff Contact:    
MEMORANDUM OPINION
TO: Mr. Keith B. Martin
School Board Attorney, Lee County
FROM: James A. Robinson, General Counsel
SUBJECT: Charter School Issues
RE: Request for Clarification of Your Letter dated March 26, 2002

QUESTION PRESENTED: May a district school board which has granted charter status pursuant to Section 228.056(4), Fla. Stat., thereafter contract with the charter school to provide all services required for operation of the school at a rate no greater than the district's actual cost?

CONCLUSION: Yes, provided that such an arrangement is evidenced by a modification of the charter agreement, and is not used by the school board as a means to impose unreasonable rules or regulations that violate the intent to give charter schools greater flexibility to meet educational goals. See Section 228.056(4)(f), Fla. Stat. Our opinion further assumes that the proposed arrangement would not affect the status of the charter school as an independent legal entity organized as, or operated by, a nonprofit organization pursuant to Section 228.056(8), Fla. Stat., consistent with applicable requirements set forth in Section 228.056(9), Fla. Stat.

DISCUSSION: As to the form the agreement should take, Section 228.056(4)(f), Fla. Stat., requires the terms and conditions for the operation of a charter school be set forth in the charter agreement. Section 228.056(10)(c), Fla. Stat., permits a charter to be modified during its initial term or any renewal term upon the recommendation of the sponsor or the charter school governing board and the approval of both parties to the agreement. Accordingly, we suggest that the arrangement you propose be accomplished by a modification of the charter agreement.

Section 228.056(14)(h), Fla. Stat., provides that:

"If other goods and services are made available to the charter school through the contract with the school district, they shall be provided to the charter school at a rate no greater than the district's actual cost. To maximize the use of state funds, school districts shall allow charter schools to participate in the sponsor's bulk purchasing program if applicable."

This subsection contemplates the provision of goods and services that are in addition to those specified elsewhere in the law. The Legislature has specified certain goods or services such as services of personnel employed by the sponsor (Section 228.056(13(a), Fla. Stat.); transportation of students (Section 228.056(14)(c), Fla. Stat.); programs or services to students funded by federal funds (Section 228.056(14)(d), Fla. Stat.); and school board facilities or properties that are surplus, marked for disposal, or otherwise unused (Section 228.056(14)(g), Fla. Stat.). On the other hand, what the Legislature intended by use of the phrase "other goods and services" is uncertain. Clearly, the Legislature did not intend to be restrictive, and this is consistent with its overall intent to provide charter schools with greater flexibility. Accordingly, assuming all intended goods and services meet the requirements of Section 228.056, Fla. Stat., it is our opinion that the arrangement you propose is permissible. If you desire our opinion regarding the specific goods and services under consideration, please let me know and provide me with a list for review and consideration.

JAR/mak

cc: Diane McCain, Director, Office of Choice

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