TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Rick Scott continues his push to help more charter schools operate in Florida.
On Wednesday, he helped cut the ribbon at the Governor's Charter Academy in Tallahassee. It opened last month with 566 students in grades K-6.
The school is managed by Charter Schools USA, a for-profit company that operates 48 schools with 40,000 students in five states.
President and CEO Jonathon Hage says the company's schools operate on 70 percent less funding than public schools because charters don't get property taxes. Instead, they aim to earn bonuses from the state for high student achievement.
Gov. Scott and Republican lawmakers are trying to boost the growth of charter schools.
They say increased competition helps generate new ideas to make education better. But critics argue charters drain money away from public schools and turn control over to for-profit companies.
Gov. Scott says it's about giving parents a choice.
"It's not choice because there should be winners and losers. The only winners should be children. What's best for our children and choice is what parents want. We want competition because competition will make us all better. It does in sports. It's clearly going to do it in education. So as we create more choice across the state, it's going to be for the benefit of one group, and that's our children."
There is high demand for the Governor's Charter Academy in Tallahassee. The school is already using a waiting list because so many parents have applied to send their children there.
The school has 64,000 square feet of space and the classrooms are built with glass walls. The design is intended to let people observe what's happening in the classroom without going through the door and creating a distraction.
The school will give students the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and receive a grade from the state. Hage says if the school scores well and receives a bonus from the state as a result, that cash will go directly to teachers. He says teachers can earn an extra $5,000 under that approach.
The Florida Legislature approved charter schools in 1996. Today, Florida supports more than 500 charter schools with 180,000 students.
That makes Florida third in the nation in charter school enrollment.
First Coast News