The number of charter schools in Florida and the number of students they enroll has grown substantially since the inception of charter schools. In 1996, the state had five charter schools that enrolled 574 students. By the 2018-19 school year, 658 charter schools enrolled 313,586 PreK-12 students, or approximately 11% of statewide reported enrollment (2,846,857). During the most recent five years for which data is available, the number of charter schools in operation increased by 2% and the number of students enrolled increased by 25%.
Number of Florida Charter Schools in Operation and Their Enrollment
Source: Department of Education, Office of Independent Education & Parental Choice.
The Department of Education maintains a directory of charter schools currently in operation that can be searched by school name, school district, or city. The directory also provides other information, including charter school contacts.
As required by s. 1002.33(20)(a)1., Florida Statutes, a school district must provide certain administrative and educational services to charter schools, which include
The school district may withhold up to a 5% administrative fee from the available per-student operating funds from the FEFP for enrollment for up to and including 250 students. For high-performing charter schools, a school district may withhold a total administrative fee of up to 2% for enrollment up to and including 250 students per school. The fee is to cover district costs for administrative services. School districts may not charge additional fees or surcharges for services unless the school district contracts with the charter school to provide additional goods and services.
Section 1002.33(20)(d), Florida Statutes, requires each charter school to annually complete and submit a survey, in a format specified by the Department of Education, to rate the timeliness and quality of services provided by the applicable school district, and requires the department to compile the survey results.
Charter schools that exhibit poor academic or financial performance may have their charters terminated or not renewed by their sponsors (s. 1002.33(8)(a), Florida Statutes). A sponsor must terminate a charter school that earns two consecutive grades of F, with limited exceptions (s. 1002.33(9)(n)3., Florida Statutes).
Pursuant to s. 1002.33(8)(d), Florida Statutes, when a charter is not renewed or is terminated, the school must be dissolved under the provisions of law under which the school was organized, and any unencumbered public funds from the charter school revert to the district school board. In the event a charter school is dissolved or is otherwise terminated, all district school board property and improvements, furnishings, and equipment purchased with public funds automatically reverts to full ownership by the district school board, subject to complete satisfaction of any lawful liens or encumbrances.
Charter schools are funded through the FEFP in the same way as all other public schools (s. 1002.33(17), Florida Statutes). The charter school receives operating funds from the FEFP based on the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) students enrolled. Charter school funding includes gross state and local funds, discretionary lottery funds, and funds from the school district's current operating discretionary millage levy. The funding per school is calculated by dividing the total funds available by the total funded weighted FTE students in the school district, and then multiplying by the weighted FTE students in the charter school. Charter schools are entitled to their proportionate share of categorical program funds for eligible students and programs. Schools must spend categorical funds for specified purposes, which include student transportation, safe schools, supplemental academic instruction, research-based reading, instructional materials, digital classrooms, and class-size reduction operating funds.
Section 1002.33(17)(b), Florida Statutes, permits charter schools operated by a not-for-profit or municipal entity, any unrestricted current and capital assets identified in the charter school's annual financial audit may be used for other charter schools operated by the not-for-profit or municipal entity within the school district.
In Fiscal Year 2018-19, school districts reported distributing $2,383,978,814 in general funds to charter schools, as shown in the Department of Education's state cumulative totals from the school district annual financial reports.
Pursuant to s. 1013.62, Florida Statutes, charter schools are eligible for revenue resulting from the discretionary millage authorized in s. 1011.71(2), Florida Statutes, and state funds when such funds are appropriated in the General Appropriations Act.
To be eligible to receive charter school capital outlay funding, a charter school must have been in operation for two or more years, be governed by a governing board established in the state for two or more years, be part of an expanded feeder pattern of a charter school that is currently receiving capital outlay funding, have been accredited by a regional accrediting association, or serve students in facilities that are provided by a business partner for a charter-school-in-the-workplace; and
Funds provided for capital outlay purposes are allocated to eligible schools based upon a statutory formula in s. 1013.62, Florida Statutes.
In Fiscal Year 2018-19, school districts reported distributing $143,385,049 to charter schools for capital outlay funding, as shown in the Department of Education's state cumulative totals from the school district annual financial reports. The Department of Education also maintains data on charter school capital outlay disbursements by school.
Charter schools, like traditional public schools, receive federal education funding through such programs as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. s. 1411(e); s. 1002.33(17)(c), Florida Statutes), Title I programs for disadvantaged students (20 U.S.C. s. 6301 et. seq., as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, Public Law 114-95), and Title II programs for improving teacher quality (20 U.S.C. ss. 6601-6641, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, Public Law 114-95; s. 1002.33(17)(c)-(d), Florida Statutes). In addition, the U.S. Department of Education's Charter Schools Program provides, among other things, start-up grants, dissemination grants, and replication and expansion grants to eligible charter schools. Several tax, zoning, and fee exemptions also may apply to certain types of charter schools.
Section 1002.33(25), Florida Statutes, permits a system of charter schools to serve as a local education agency (LEA) for the purpose of receiving federal funds if the governing board adopts and files a resolution with its sponsor and the Department of Education in which the governing board accepts the full responsibility for all LEA requirements. Charter school system's governing board may be designated as an LEA for purposes of receiving federal funds for all schools within a school district that are established under a turnaround option pursuant to s. 1008.33, Florida Statutes, and are under the jurisdiction of the governing board.
Pursuant to s. 1002.33(16)(a)-(b), Florida Statutes, charter schools are exempt from the Florida K-20 Education Code (Chs. 1000-1013, Florida Statutes), except for statutes that pertain specifically to charter schools, general statutory provisions that expressly include charter schools within their scope, and statutes pertaining to student assessment and school grading; the provision of services to students with disabilities; civil rights; student health, safety, and welfare; public records, public meetings, and public inspection; criminal and civil penalties; and provisions relating to educator compensation, contracts, and the substantive requirements relating to performance evaluations.
In addition, charter schools are exempt from compliance with the State Requirements for Educational Facilities but must comply with the Florida Building Code and the Florida Fire Prevention Code. Libraries, community service organizations, museums, performing arts venues, theatres, cinemas, churches, Florida Community College System institutions, and universities may provide space to charter schools within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations.
Summary of Significant Findings and Financial Trends Identified in Charter School and Charter Technical Career Center Audit Reports for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2018 - Pursuant to Section 11.45(7)(f), Florida Statutes, Auditor General Report No. 2020-004, July 2019.
Review of District School Board, Charter School, and Charter Technical Career Center Audit Reports for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2018 - Pursuant to Section 11.45(7)(b), Florida Statutes, Auditor General Report No. 2020-001, July 2019.
Summary of Significant Findings and Financial Trends Identified in Charter School and Charter Technical Career Center Audit Reports for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2017 - Pursuant to Section 11.45(7)(f), Florida Statutes, Auditor General Report No. 2019-021, September 2018.
Review of District School Board, Charter School, and Charter Technical Career Center Audit Reports for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2017 - Pursuant to Section 11.45(7)(b), Florida Statutes, Auditor General Report No. 2019-005, July 2018.
Summary of Significant Findings and Financial Trends Identified in Charter School and Charter Technical Career Center Audit Reports for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2016 - Pursuant to Section 11.45(7)(f), Florida Statutes, Auditor General Report No. 2018-006, July 2017.
Review of District School Board, Charter School, and Charter Technical Career Center Audit Reports for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2016 - Pursuant to Section 11.45(7)(b), Florida Statutes, Auditor General Report No. 2018-004, July 2017.
Charter school financial audit reports.
Student Achievement in Florida's Charter Schools: A Comparison of the Performance of Charter School Students with Traditional Public School Students, Florida Department of Education, March 2019.
'Charter High Schools' Effects on Long-Term Attainment and Earnings', Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, April 2016.
Online Charter School Study, 2015, Center for Research on Education Outcomes.
Websites of Interest
Building Charter School Quality
Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, Research & Reports
Florida Charter School Alliance
Florida Charter School List by District
Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
National Associations of Charter School Authorizers
National Charter School Resource Center
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Innovation & Improvement, Charter Schools