The tricky question is: Should our elected school board fight back like the Leon County School Board did?
Excerpt from article:
After a lengthy debate, the Leon County School Board denied a new charter school’s application during Tuesday night’s board meeting. Scott Mazur, president of the local teacher’s union, said the charter’s application had “certain things that were missing.” George Levesque, attorney for the proposed school, said he hoped the board would consider “the recommendation made by your own staff — that the charter should be approved [despite the concerns].” Among several concerns laid out by staff was how the school would maintain a safe school officer, required by law [for both district run and charter schools].https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2021/04/28/leon-county-school-board-denies-red-hills-academy-charter-application/4863727001/
I encourage the school board to adopt a policy that states that they will deny all charter school applications that do not include the following:
* Give assurance that the charter school will accept and have adequate support for ESE students
* Fully explain the charter school’s plan to comply with the state law that requires a school safety officer with a gun to be at the school. Do they plan to allow teachers to be armed which the school district doesn’t allow for the district run schools?
* When the charter school closes, the building purchased or constructed with taxpayer dollars (either directly or indirectly via lease payments) must be leased to another charter school or allow the school district to share in the sales proceeds to recoup the tax money if the building is sold. After all, if the charter school is planning to fund the purchase with our sales surtax dollars, the school district should be able to have the ability to recoup our sales surtax dollars. Apparently the FLDOE thinks that also.
My guess is that most taxpayers don’t want our sales surtax money to fund the purchase of a school building that will later be sold to a private school for the purpose of enriching private real estate investors.
I asked the FLDOE these questions and here are the responses I received:
1. Is there any provision to pay the taxpayer back if the building is sold? Their answer:
Section 1013.62 (4) F.S. states, “If a charter school is non-renewed or terminated, any unencumbered funds and all equipment and property purchased with district public funds shall revert to the ownership of the district school board. The reversion of such equipment, property, and furnishings shall focus on recoverable assets, but not on intangible or irrecoverable costs such as rental or leasing fees, normal maintenance, and limited renovations. The reversion of all property secured with public funds is subject to the complete satisfaction of all lawful liens or encumbrances. If there are additional local issues such as the shared use of facilities or partial ownership of facilities or property, these issues shall be agreed to in the charter contract prior to the expenditure of funds.”http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/7716/urlt/Distribution-of-Charter-School-Capital-Outlay-Funds-for-2020-21-FY.PDF
2. Do related party rules apply so that our sales surtax money can ONLY be used (directly or indirectly via lease payments to a related party) on items mentioned in 1013.62(4)? In other words, can related parties use our sales surtax money to repay loans? It seems that charter schools are setting up related party entities to skirt the rules of 1013.62(4) that bar capital outlay funds from being used to repay loans. Is that legal? Their answer:
An excerpt from 1002.33
[The applicant must disclose ] the name of any charter school operated by each applicant, each governing board member, and each proposed education services provider that has closed and the reasons for the closure; and the academic and financial history of such charter schools, which the sponsor shall consider in deciding whether to approve or deny the application.
I’m focusing on one charter school as an example but many of these facts can be applied to other charter school applications.
Jacksonville Classical Academy (K-6) with the FLDOE school number165831 hasn’t been in existence for two years so it has not yet begun to get the FLDOE capital outlay funds detailed on this website: http://www.fldoe.org/finance/fco/charter-school-capital-outlay/
Jacksonville Classical Academy (which is part of the national charters getting their curriculum from Hillsdale College) got another Charter school approved May 4th by the school board. And apparently the charter school plans to move into a facility that housed a private school that closed in 2019.
Excerpt from a document about the charter school’s application found on the school board’s website.:
“The school will be located in the Arlington area at 5900 Fort Caroline Road, Jacksonville, FL 32277.”
This article mentions that many of the students that attended the private school that closed (and is apparently the proposed location of the new charter school) were at least partially funding their tuition with McKay (for ESE students) vouchers. Excerpt from this 2019 article:
The principal of a Christian school in Arlington said financial issues due to low enrollment will force it to close its doors May 31 — the end of the current school year. Arlington Community Academy has been open for two years, opening as a kindergarten through third grade, and then adding a fourth grade this year. “He made a commitment to us that he would keep this school open for the Arlington community and he’s not doing that,” the unnamed parent said. “Within three years, he’s shutting down and he’s not telling us nothing.” “Enrollment is critical to maintaining operations,” Principal Gina Fafard wrote. “Despite our best efforts, enrollment has been significantly lower than expected, and we are not able to keep ACA operational beyond the end of the 2018-2019 school year.”https://www.news4jax.com/news/2019/03/22/arlington-christian-school-tells-parents-it-will-close-in-may/
Some of the deficiencies in the charter school application concerned ESE students. Link to evaluation form that was found on the school board’s website:
I assume real estate investors will buy the facility and lease it to the charter school because that’s usually what happens. The charter school will make the lease payments with our sales surtax dollars and other tax dollars. Will the real estate developers sell the property back to a private school after they get our sales surtax dollars for several years? The Jacksonville Classical Academy on 2043 Forest St., 32204 leases its building from JEB Jacksonville Support Corporation. Details of that real estate investor group:
Quote from this November 2020 opinion piece published after the sales tax referendum was passed:
Rood said that Jacksonville Classical Academy will benefit from the recent half-cent sales tax referendum. Funds will be used to build a gym and free the school from some fundraising.https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/editorials/2020/11/29/editorial-new-charter-school-looks-like-classic-success/6373373002/
I see that the new KIPP school is requesting to be designated as a feeder school so it can get our sales surtax money BEFORE the two year probation period. Will this new charter school attempt to be designated as a feeder school also?
Anyone want to comment about Critical Race Theory and the propaganda pamphlet I received from Hillsdale College? Excerpt I received from a public request I sent to Jacksonville Classical Academy:
Jacksonville Classical Academy (JXC) has been supported through the early stages of startup by the Barney Charter School Initiative (BCSI) of Hillsdale College. Jacksonville Classical Academy is a Licensed User of the Hillsdale College K-12 Curriculum.
This blog post is about Hillsdale College and Critical Race Theory:
2015 article but this is still true:
A recent spate of charter-school closings illustrates weaknesses in state law. Florida requires local school districts to oversee charter schools but gives them limited power to intervene when cash is mismanaged or students are deprived. Lack of regulation can allow abuses. … A handful of South Florida charter schools that failed in the past five years owe a total of at least $1 million in public education money to local school districts, records show. The actual amount may be much higher. Districts struggle to track spending at troubled schools.http://interactive.sun-sentinel.com/charter-schools-unsupervised/investigation.html