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Guest Opinion

Charter Schools are Contributing to Urban Sprawl


Florida is promoting charter schools as an alternative to traditional schools, allowing parents the “freedom of choice” in providing education for their children. What Florida doesn’t want you to know is the location and building of charter schools gives developers, and school boards the freedom to do anything they want regardless of its impact on neighborhoods, the environment, and the children.

Nonexistent building requirements for locating a charter school have encouraged developers to incorporate charter schools as a tool to expedite their developments' approval.

According to the Florida Department of Education:

Charter schools must use facilities that comply with the Florida Building Code (Ch. 553, F.S.) and Florida Fire Prevention Code (s. 633.025, F.S.) but are exempt from compliance with the State Requirements for Educational Facilities (SREF).

In other words, being exempt from the SREF means charter schools can be easily approved during the planning process and can be built much faster than traditional school buildings.

Florida Statutes 235.26 requires core facilities in new school buildings be built sufficient to function as public hurricane shelters. Charter schools are exempt from this requirement.

Although the Sarasota 2050 Plan is the main driving force for urban sprawl east of Interstate 75, supporting charter schools is contributing to urban sprawl, not only in Sarasota, but throughout Florida.

Urban sprawl can be linked directly to locating public schools away from existing communities, this encourages residential development into areas presently undeveloped, and requires expensive infrastructure such as new roads, water, and sewer lines, to the benefit of developers rather than the community. Improperly located schools force the long-distance transportation of students, at increased expense and discomfort to the student and can directly destroy environmentally valuable lands and cause urban sprawl.

The location of new schools should consider neighborhood compatibility, traffic patterns, adjacent land uses, and environmental impacts such as air, water quality, and ecosystems. For the health of the children and staff, adjacent hazards such as railroads, airports, gas and electric lines, known toxic waste sites, and toxic air pollution omissions must be addressed prior to any approval. Currently, charter schools can be located without any such siting review.

An old adage says, “Freedom isn’t free.” The development community is heavily influencing school boards to approve charter schools so that new residential growth will not be slowed down due to a lack of adequate public education facilities. Such shortsightedness comes with a cost. The price is urban sprawl, environmental damage, and the health and safety of our children.

Glenn Compton is the Chairman of ManaSota 88, a non-profit organization that has spent over 30 years fighting to protect the environment of Manatee and Sarasota counties.


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  • WTF

    Charter school approval is a long long process . Many get tuned down. The 3rd grade reading level of our District is terrible. Why would I not want a better education with my tax dollars on a choice of schools including charter schools. It's my money and our children should not be hostage by a poorly run school district

    Saturday, April 27 Report this