No advance list planned for Florida 'Schools of Hope' recommendations

Attempting to satisfy public school backers who were leery about pouring state money into a new charter school system, Florida lawmakers set aside $51.5 million this spring for up to 25 district "Schools of Hope."

The criteria were well established, although the guidelines to win the $2,000 per student award were less so. Fifty of the ninety eligible schools applied, with the recipients slated to be announced at the State Board of Education's meeting Oct. 18.

But unlike the new Schools of Excellence program, which listed its accepted schools late Wednesday, there's nothing indicating which schools might land the Hope grant. The Department of Education staff has not included any ranking of the applications, or made any public recommendations.

Rather, department spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said, the State Board will review each submission and then decide which to give the money, if any.

"It's going to depend on how well they meet the criteria for the grant," Etters said.

Florida lawmakers are paying attention.

During a committee meeting Thursday, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, asked K-12 Chancellor Hershel Lyons if any of the applicants come from districts that are challenging the constitutionality of HB 7069, which created the program.

Lyons said he did not know. The answer, though, is yes. The Broward, Duval, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, Pinellas, Polk, St. Lucie and Volusia districts have joined the lawsuit and applied for Schools of Hope grants.

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