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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Orange and Seminole counties stand up to the state. Will Duval?

From the Orlando Sentinel, by Dave Weber

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.

Orange's rejection of Renaissance was overturned in part because the district last year approved another Renaissance school, and organizers said the applications were nearly identical. The first school has yet to open, but organizers said both are planned for this fall.

Orange held that because Renaissance planned to give control of its operation to the Charter Schools USA management firm, the school organizers would not have adequate oversight. Hiring principal and teachers as well as budgeting all would be handled by the management firm for a fee that Orange contended could be excessive. or 407-883-7885,0,806135.story

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