Thursday, March 10, 2005


More charter school failure—this time on Jeb's watch

One school board in Florida has had it with charter schools. Charter schools, you will recall, are that wonderful Republican invention that was supposed to "save" public education by privatizing it in much the same way that investment accounts are supposed to "save" Social Security by privatizing it. In fact, the No Child Left Behind Act actually offers to "failing" schools the option of converting themselves into charter schools—where they may continue to fail without public scrutiny. Naturally, Florida Governor Jeb Bush thinks they're just dandy.

From the perspective of the Hillsborough County School Board the charter schools in the Tampa area have not only been getting a free ride, they've been getting free money—and they say they're not going to put up with it.

According to Jeffrey S. Solochek of the St. Petersburg Times,

Board members said Tuesday [3/1/05] they want to bar charter schools from participating in the district's teacher job fair and to increase what they are charged for district services to reflect true costs.

"I have changed my mind about charters," said Carol Kurdell, the board's longest-tenured member. "I am very open on charters, but they have become private schools in their own right."

Chief of staff Jim Hamilton cautioned that the state, which created the charter school law and can overrule some district actions, might reprimand the district.

Kurdell was unbowed.

"If the state wants to take us to task on that, fine. I'm ready to take that fight on," she said. "We need to set the rigorous standards now."

Tough talk to a Republican legislature. I hope they're not arrested.

The district already has sent letters to six charter schools notifying them it will take action against their contracts if students do not show marked academic gains, chief academic officer Donnie Evans said.

Board members said two of those schools should be closed right away, though they did not indicate which two.

Board member Susan Valdes said charter schools should provide something the district cannot. Few meet that mark, she said.

Valdes said the district should rigidly enforce its contracts and demand repayment of all debts. At least two schools owe the district several hundred thousand dollars. Meanwhile, the district has run a deficit of close to $500,000 administering charter schools.

"I hate the fact that we are owed money, and that we are spending money, with no accountability," she said. "We have to be held accountable. They have to be held accountable as well."

I should emphasize that there is nary a school board in Florida composed of wild-eyed left-wing radicals.

Since the Florida legislature is considering some changes to the charter school laws, I have an idea. Why don't they merge them into the public school system?

Related posts
Dumb your child down the Republican way (8/18/04)
Bush's education legacy in Texas: More cheating and lying (12/21/04)

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