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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Charter school stockpiling, what are you doing Florida?

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

The Orange county school board turned down a recent Charter USA’s application largely because the group hadn’t opened the building which had been previously ok’d. Writes Lauren Wright in the Orlando Sentinel:

Last October, the Orange school board approved a Charter Schools USA application for another Renaissance school that should have opened this fall. However, it was granted a one-year deferral in March because of problems finding a site.

That delay was one reason the board rejected Renaissance’s application last month.

“Before we take a chance on a second site, I’d want to see what you can do with our students,” said board member Joie Cadle.

“It smacks of stockpiling charters,” added board chairman Bill Sublette.

District staff said the new application also made unrealistic budget assumptions, allowed the management company too much control over staffing and fell short on fiscal oversight.

In its appeal, the Renaissance board argued that the two applications were essentially the same and that Orange County’s rejection should be tossed out because it wasn’t specific enough or in the right format.

“We do believe there’s a demand for choice in the area and we’d like to provide a high-performing charter school for parents and students,” Charter Schools USA spokeswoman Colleen Reynolds said Tuesday.

For most charter school appeals, Florida law requires the state Charter School Appeal Commission to issue a recommendation and the state Board of Education to vote on it within 90 days of anis appeal.

Its quite clear that Orange school board chairman is wary of Charter USA’s efforts. Few Floridians know about the power struggle that’s going on between local school boards and the republican legislature. Jacksonville Senator Steve Wise sponsored a bill which would have end their salaries during the last session. The state’s association of school boards is lobbying to get final charter school decisions back.

A search on the DOE website still shows that former commissioner Eric Smith is on the appeals board. It appears that the majority of previous appeals have ruled in favor of the school boards. Pasco, Polk, Clay, Seminole and St. Lucie counties have also turned down charter requests. The fact that the board’s membership roster has not been updated could be a violation of Sunshine laws – especially now that so many charters will be appealing rejections.

Charter USA has friends in high places. Its one of the corporate sponsors of Jeb Bush’s education foundation. Its chairman, Jonathan Hage was on Rick Scott’s education transition team. How a more glaring conflict of interest could exist is beyond me.

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