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Monday, April 12, 2021

Gary Chartrand spreads misinformation about charter schools, again.

 Gary Chartrand really supports charter schools; that is undeniable; however, the same can’t be said for public schools, which he has for decades sought to undermine. His tenure on the state board of education, a position he as a grocer was completely unqualified for saw, high stakes testing go up, and teacher salaries go down as well as the creation of one unfunded mandate after another that, for the most part, charter schools are exempt from. 

Gary Chartrand has his truth; unfortunately, his truth is filled with caveats that he leaves out. Let’s look at his claim about the IDEA charter schools, which are coming to Jacksonville paid for with Jacksonville tax dollars. 

He claimed that 100 percent of their graduates have been accepted to college. I am reminded of the old adage if something seems too good to be true, it probably is, and this definitely seems too good to be true. I could not find anything to independently verify that statement. Still, I was able to find plenty of how they routinely counsel out poor performers, and only sixty-five percent of their ninth-graders made it to graduation. Then it gets worse.

This is from the IDEA student handbook: As required by the IPS charter, a student may graduate and receive a diploma only if the student successfully completes the curriculum requirements identified by the SBOE, has been accepted into a four-year college or university, has completed a minimum of 125 hours of community service, and has performed satisfactorily on required end of course assessment instrument.

They are required to be accepted, not attend or do well, but just be accepted. To give you some scale, if DCPS required all its seniors just to apply to Florida State College at Jacksonville, they too could say they have a 100 percent college acceptance because they are required to accept any high school graduate.  


You would think if the assertion of a 100 percent graduation rate was true, it would be a big headline. It has not been, but IDEA leasing a private plane and professional sports tickets for their executives have been. These scandals have become all too commonplace with charters as well

Yes, it is true charter schools do have the same "testing" accountability measures that public schools have. Still, it is equally true that charters can pick who they take and keep, and many councils out poor performers and don’t take ESOL and special needs students, to begin with. Imagine how well public schools would be doing if they had the same advantages, but then again, they wouldn’t be public schools, would they? Charters may be publicly funded, but after that, the similarities are far and few between. 

Though I will admit the concept of charter schools is an appealing one. Parent-teacher laboratories of experimentation and innovation where success would be then shared with and replicated in traditional public schools. The reality, however, is a nightmare, one partly created by Gary Chartrand where for-profit companies see children as price points as they cash their checks and friends believe me business is good and just look at the KIPP school that Chartrand founded. 

They have recently asked for a 23-million-dollar bond financed by Duval’s taxpayers for a new campus. They got a million-dollar PPE loan, even though the state covered them this year. Even Jacksonville’s own city Hall regularly sends them hundreds of thousands extra, throw in millions extra from the state over the year, too, and it is a pretty lucrative enterprise. Chartrand has turned tens of thousands in donations to Lenny Curry and Jason Fischer into millions for his school. 

Let me explain how another charter chain that operates a half dozen schools in Jacksonville works. Charter Schools USA. They have a nonprofit, renaissance, secure the charter, red Apple Construction, builds it, and Charter schools USA runs it. All operated by the same man, multi-millionaire Jon Hage. He made the news a while back, too, for attempting to sell one of his yachts named, Fishing for schools.   

Chartrand claims that it is undue regulation that has stymied the ultra-generous schools of hopes bill that, despite being four years old, has had few takers, is disingenuous at best. The truth is most of those schools don’t want to come here, and IDEA didn’t until the referendum became a reality. They saw all that free taxpayer money became available. The reason is they would have to set up in areas of town that are mired in poverty where dozens of charters have gone to die and speaking of charters dying, over 350 have opened taken public money and closed, leaving families and communities in a lurch, including one of Chartrand’s KIPP schools.   

If Chartrand really cared about public education, I would suggest he tried to help them improve and reach their potential rather than continuously bash and try and replace them.  

Do Chartres have a place? Yes. Do some Charters do it right? Absolutely. Then do public schools have problems? Without a doubt. Chartrand and his ilk aren't interested in solving; what they want is a replacement for public schools, not a partner, a replacement that will make more than a few of them rich. We have serious but solvable problems in education. Charters as Florida does them is not one of them.   

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