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Sunday, May 4, 2014

The failed promise of charter schools!

The league of women voters recently released a study about how charter schools are not living up to their promise. I would like to examine just one of those charter schools to see if you agree.

The charter for the Charter School at Mandarin was given to the Renaissance Charter School group the non-profit arm of Charter Schools USA (CUSA), who then contracted with CUSA to run the school and their construction arm Red Apple to build it. Some people might say one stop shopping; others might say their set up would make Columbian drug dealers envious. Red Apple by the way started construction before it was approved. They may have know it was a certainty what with the school boards friendliness to charters, which in my opinion means they are abdicating their authority to educate our children, though that did not stop CUSA from hedging its bets and donating thousands to Mandarin’s school board representative, Jason Fischer.  

Nobody on the Charter School at Mandarin’s board is from Jacksonville and its sister school the Charter School at Regency would have been an F school this past year if it wasn’t protected by states rule that schools can drop only one letter grade. A rule co-created by Gary Chartrand the local businessman who brought the KIPP charter school to town who likewise has benefited from the rule. I mention these two things because similar things happened in Orange and Hillsborough counties and they are fighting in the courts against the expansion of CUSA in their school districts. They have to fight in the courts because despite their objections Gary Chartrand and the state board of education, none of who are true educators, but consists of a citrus grower, grocer and cable TV executive instead, rubber-stamped the approval of the charter schools. 

So much for local control right?

Jonathan Hage the CEO of CUSA, even though he lives in Florida and does the vast bulk of his business here has registered the company in Delaware where CUSA operates zero schools. Then even though he only operates 58 schools with a little over 50,000 students, he lives in a 1.8 million dollar house, owns a 350 thousand dollar yacht named Fishing for Schools and sends his children to an exclusive private school. His salary was unavailable but I have heard estimates of up to 3.6 million dollars.

By comparison Duval’s superintendent Vitti who runs 176 schools with 119 thousand students, makes 275 thousand dollars, lives in a 180 thousand dollar condo (I checked his financial disclosure forms) sends his children to public school and doesn’t own a yacht. 

Lets talk about innovation because remember charter schools are supposed to be laboratories of innovation. The contract with Duval County states that they will, um err, hmm, nothing, it uses a lot of flowery jargon but ultimately it provides the same services that a student would get at any of the neighboring schools near it which are all rated A by the way. 

Finally CUSA is a big player in the lobby game sending thousands of dollars to mostly republican legislators. My main problem with this is they undoubtedly use public money because remember they get their money from the public, to lobby for more public money.

Is this what you envision when you hear the words charter schools? A lucrative profit center for a man who won’t even send his own kids to one of his schools and a school with dubious innovation that uses pubic money to get more public money? Is that what you think?

Friends even if you like charter schools and the Stanford CREDO the definitive charter school study says children as a group in Florida that attend them lag behind their public school peers, even if you like charter schools despite the fact if your child was attending one they were 5 times more likely to be attending an F school than if they went to a public school, this school can’t represent the promise you might think they will bring. 

There are problems in public schools, the lion’s share caused by legislators who ignore  poverty  and who support charter schools but the answer is to fix the problems, not to outsource our kid’s education to the monstrosity described above. 


  1. I read the Letter to the Editor about the League of Women Voters' report. Good job! Wish more would sit up and take notice!