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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Florida's charter schools get a pass on accountability

From the Orlando Sentinel's editorial board

In the name of creative autonomy, Florida charter schools largely are let off the hook from rules that hold traditional public schools accountable.

One of the relatively few rules by which charter schools are bound is ensuring that disabled students have "an equal opportunity of being selected for enrollment in a charter school."

An obligation that Choices in Learning Charter School allegedly violated. Florida schools must admit kids first, then figure out how to serve them. Yet, a complaint asserts that the Winter Springs school denied a student admission because she's autistic.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is looking into the complaint, lodged against the Seminole County school district. That's correct procedurally, since state law recognizes Choices in Learning as just another public school.

Except that it's not.

Charters largely function outside control of their parent district. Seminole's school board, for instance, lacks direct access to records investigators have requested from the school.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, largely have muzzled local districts regarding charter expansion. And state officials routinely overrule school boards' charter rejections — even over shoddy standards. Yet, Seminole is on the hook for charters' performance — and in this case, defense. It defies logic that district input is discouraged except when charters — over which they have little control — misstep.

Just another example of how state lawmakers have driven a worthy idea off the rails.

Choices in Learning asks for FCAT scores in order to even APPLY for their screening process. Their application asks SEVEN TIMES about English language proficiency and asks if you have traveled across state lines in order to seek work in the migratory field. . . .REALLY? It goes on to question if the student lives with both parents or comes from a divorced family and asks several times about IEP/504 plans . . . .I can't even believe this is OKAY!

If that doesn't raise a red flag, Im not sure anything can.

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