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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jacksonville is front and center of the National Charter School debate

From Grumpy Educators

by Sandra

While charter school expansion continues in Florida, so do the challenges to local decision-making. KIPP is a nationally recognized charter operator; however, KIPP Jacksonville operates a middle school with an "F" performance. The charter's application to open two new charters was questioned by the Duval School Board, which asked KIPP to explain why they should approve an application for more schools when they are operating one with an "F". Duval will vote on the application on November 1; however, KIPP has said they will appeal if their application is rejected.

Parents, community members, and taxpayers rely on school boards, who have the mandated responsibility of approving applications to open charters, monitoring them, and closing those who are non-performing. The application itself does not include reporting on a charter's performance history. Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson does not believe the application should include such information; however he does believe that school boards must consider charter performance as part of their decision-making process. In a Florida Department of Education statement, Robinson's views were clarified:

The Commissioner contends that performance of charter schools should be taken into consideration prior to any new charter school development because providing a quality learning environment for all students is paramount.

The Florida Times-Union quotes Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, who said that "a poorly performing school shouldn’t be approved to open new schools."

“KIPP nationally is a great organization, but every school still has to earn its own way,” Richmond said.

“So if you’re an 'F’ school, you’ve got to bring that grade up before you can start talking about opening some more schools.”

The November 1 decision is one to follow as well as Charter USA's challenge to the recent Polk County School Board's rejection of their application.

With mounting challenges to a local school board decision, what can parents rely on to make informed decisions on school choice?

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