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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More Florida school districs lose local control. State takes over

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

Signs that the end of local board control of schools – and its own finances – continued today when the state board of education overruled Orange and Seminole counties rejection of two charter schools. From Leslie Postal in the Orlando Sentinel:

TALLAHASSEE – Orange and Seminole school districts should be forced to allow two charter schools they turned down, the state Board of Education ruled Tuesday.

The state board sided with a recommendation from the charter school appeal commission that Renaissance Charter out of South Florida be allowed to set up shop next fall in Orange.

But the state board ignored the appeal commission recommendation that it reject the application of Florida Virtual Academy to open charters in Seminole and Duval counties because the proposed schools failed to meet certain standards. Board members said the virtual schools should be given the benefit of the doubt because the state is encouraging a shift to virtual education across Florida.

Seminole Superintendent Bill Vogel said the district immediately would file a court appeal aimed at preventing the charter from opening.

“I am extremely disappointed with the decision,” Vogel said.

Charters are public schools funded by taxpayers, but must follow fewer state rules than traditional schools. While charters operate largely outside control of local school districts, the districts are held responsible for their performance.

State Board Chairman Kathleen Shanahan said she hoped no one would think that in ignoring its appeal commission recommendations the board routinely was siding with charters, a common criticism.

The realities of whom overruled who defies logic. Political appointees from both the state board and the charter school appeal commission overruled elected school board members. To think that such a dynamic was set up by other elected officials in the Florida legislature is equally appalling.

The state board’s justification to reject the appeal commission’s recommendation on a Florida Virtual School demonstrated just how conflicted the state board members are in their decision-making. Doing so because “virtual schools should be given the benefit of the doubt because the state is encouraging a shift to virtual education across Florida,” is based on neither merit nor reason. Shanahan’s “hope” rings hollow and her boards’ decision stinks of pure patronage.

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