Can public sentiment persuade our school board to deny charter school applications?

My public records request revealed that no capital outlay funds were returned after the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) showed seven Duval Charter schools as closing between 2015 and 2020. No capital outlay funds were recouped in spite of the Florida statute 1013.62 that says:

(5) If a charter school is nonrenewed 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, as provided for in s. 1002.33(8)(d) and (e). In the case of a charter lab school, any unencumbered funds and all equipment and property purchased with university public funds shall revert to the ownership of the state university that issued the charter. 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.

Action item:  Write your elected state representatives and ask why they didn’t put more protections in place before they voted yes on HB 7097 in 2020 forcing us to give part of sales surtax to charter schools on a per student rather than a needs based formula. Clearly more protections were needed since no capital outlay funds were returned (according to the public records request) when charter schools closed. The legislature forced us to give our sales tax dollars to charter schools on a per student basis with HB 7097.  It begins on line 1301 of HB 7097:

(b) The resolution must include a statement that … the revenues collected must be shared with eligible charter schools based on their proportionate share of the total school district enrollment.

 https://flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7097/BillText/er/PDF

Would public sentiment give the school board the strength to deny charter school applications for charter schools that don’t clearly lay out the plan for returning our sales surtax dollars in the event the school closes?

The newly approved KIPP charter school has requested to be a feeder school so it doesn’t have to wait the two year probationary period to get our sales surtax money. My understanding is the school district has the ability to deny that request. If they approve the request, then all other schools will get a smaller percentage of the sales surtax money since the allocation is based on a percentage of the school’s enrollment to total enrollment.

According to a DCPS website $922,541.99 is the sales surtax share for the charter schools in 2021 so far. I hope going forward the website will give us more information. I assume that number is the dollar amount for January to March since sales tax returns are normally filed quarterly and the sales surtax began January 1st of this year.

Please encourage your elected school board representative or sales surtax citizen oversight committee member to demand that the school district make the website report this information:

  • How much of our sales surtax money did each charter school get?
  • What provisions are in each charter school contract that will allow the school district to recoup the funds, the equipment, and the facility purchased with our sales surtax dollars if the charter school should close?
  • Date the charter school closed if it isn’t still open or the date it quit receiving funds
  • Reason the charter school isn’t receiving funds other than a closing. Examples are listed in Florida Statute 1013.62 and include financial problems or inadequate student achievement.
  • How much, if any, of our sales surtax dollars was recouped when the charter school closed?

My public records request asked why the seven Duval County Charter schools (that had been receiving state capital outlay funds) quit receiving them.

Many other charter schools closed before they had been open 2 years, which is the usual probationary period before a charter school can receive capital outlay funds under 1013.62. The two KIPP schools in the list of seven charter schools that closed didn’t exactly close; they merged with another KIPP school. I wonder why. Was it so they could more easily share money? Was it because merging them protected them from losing funds due to a bad grade? According to Florida Statute 1013.62, the capital outlay funding will stop for a couple of reasons including not meeting these requirements:

2. Have an annual audit that does not reveal any of the financial emergency conditions provided in s. 218.503(1) for the most recent fiscal year for which such audit results are available.

3. Have satisfactory student achievement based on state accountability standards applicable to the charter school.

The other five charter schools on the list are shown as closing for various reasons including financial insolvency and declining enrollment.

The public records department of the Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) made me pay $151.44 before they’d look for the information. Don’t you think the information should be readily available? The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) abdicated responsibility even though it was the state legislators that forced these dollars to be given to charter schools with inadequate safeguard provisions within the state law. The FLDOE responded to my public records request:

The Duval County School Board serves as sponsor of charter schools and would be the appropriate resource for information on school closures in the county. You may contact Mr. Eugene Hays, Director of Charter Schools, Duval County School at hayse@duvalschools.org to find the reasons the listed charter schools closed.

I continue to wish the school board or citizen sales surtax oversight committee would create better safeguards for our sales surtax money that is going to charter schools that may close. It’s a travesty that the state legislators passed HB 7097 in 2020 forcing us to give our sales surtax to charter schools without proper safeguards.

The dollar amount being reported on the FLDOE website (as shown below) as received includes PECO funds which (I think) in some years the state legislators gave it all to charter schools and none to the neighborhood or magnet schools. These are the seven charter schools I asked about:

2012-2019
total $ rec’d school #
318,575160601   KIPP VOICE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (closed 2017)
515,118161341   MURRAY HILL HIGH SCHOOL (closed 2015)
21,161165531   VALOR ACADEMY OF LEADERSHIP MIDDLE SCHOOL (closed 2016)
149,650165581   KIPP JACKSONVILLE K-8 (closed 2018)
22,327161381   SOMERSET EAGLE HIGH SCHOOL (closed 2016)
279,440165501   Somerset Preparatory Academy (closed 2015)
418,464161181   SIATECH (SCHOOL FOR ACCELERATED LEARNING AND TECHNOLOGIES, INC) (closed 2020)

The Florida statutes 1013.62 (4) say capital outlay funds can only be expended by charter schools for these reasons:

   (a) Purchase of real property.  (b) Construction of school facilities.  (c) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of permanent or relocatable school facilities. (d) Purchase of vehicles to transport students to and from the charter school. (e) Renovation, repair, and maintenance of school facilities that the charter school owns or is purchasing through a lease-purchase or long-term lease of 5 years or longer. (f) Payment of the cost of premiums for property and casualty insurance necessary to insure the school facilities. (g) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of driver’s education vehicles; motor vehicles used for the maintenance or operation of plants and equipment; security vehicles; or vehicles used in storing or distributing materials and equipment. (h) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of computer and device hardware and operating system software necessary for gaining access to or enhancing the use of electronic and digital instructional content and resources; and enterprise resource software applications that are classified as capital assets in accordance with definitions of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, have a useful life of at least 5 years, and are used to support schoolwide administration or state-mandated reporting requirements. Enterprise resource software may be acquired by annual license fees, maintenance fees, or lease agreement. (i) Payment of the cost of the opening day collection for the library media center of a new school.

I asked the FLDOE:  Is there any provision to pay the taxpayer back if the building is sold?

​They answered:
​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.”

I asked the FLDOE:  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?

​They answered:​
Capital outlay may be used to purchase, construct or lease a facility. The sponsor ​[the school district] ​has fiduciary responsibility as it holds the contract with the governing board of the charter school.

Don’t those answers give you the impression that the elected school board and the school district have some ability to deny charter school applications in order to protect our sales surtax money? If you answer yes to that question, please write your elected school board member. Public sentiment might give the school board the courage to act to safeguard our sales surtax money in spite of what the state legislators have done.

Action item:
Write your elected school board member (or maybe all seven school board members) and ask:

What protections are in place to recoup our sales surtax dollars WHEN a charter school closes? Please deny any charter school applications whose charter contract doesn’t clearly lay out the charter school’s plan to allow the school district to recoup the sales surtax dollars and the assets it purchased when the charter school closes.

You might ask how that can be done when the sales surtax money may be used to make lease payments to an organization that is related to the charter school? That raises this question: are charter schools setting up shell companies to skirt the rules? If yes, what can be done about their effort to defraud the taxpayer?

References and other articles of interest

As for a breakdown, Florida schools did earn perfect scores as far as accountability. That’s because the publicly-funded charter schools must abide by Florida’s Sunshine Law with open meetings and records, and the schools are subject to audits. But the state gets slammed for allowing for-profit entities to run charter schools and for allowing charter school boards to contract with private management contractors. NEA leaders, meanwhile, say the poor performance of charters nationwide shows how the concept has ultimately failed to meet expectations.

https://floridapolitics.com/archives/296109-nea-issues-florida-failing/

Governments at all levels have failed to implement systems that proactively monitor charter schools and hold them accountable. A 2016 report from the Center for Popular Democracy documents waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement of charter school funds, totaling more than $216 million.

https://www.nea.org/resource-library/state-charter-statutes

For the last two decades, Florida has been a laboratory for school choice policies: alternatives to public education like privately-run charter schools and taxpayer-funded scholarships to private institutions. Diane Ravitch argues that’s not something to celebrate or emulate. Ravitch is a historian, advocate and former assistant education secretary under Republican President George H. W. Bush. She once believed charters, vouchers and standardized testing could improve public school education. “I came to realize that the privatization movement was a continuation of a decades-long campaign by right-wingers who hated public schools, which they derisively called ‘government schools,’” she wrote of her personal evolution in her new book, Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools. “I renounced my own past views and determined to expose the well-funded smear campaign against American public schools and their teachers,” she wrote.

https://www.wlrn.org/education/2020-01-27/in-new-book-national-education-historian-calls-florida-model-of-lawlessness-and-greed

Should our elected school board fight back?

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:

The sponsor has fiduciary responsibility as it holds the contract with the governing board of the charter school.

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.
http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=1000-1099/1002/Sections/1002.33.html

References
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:
https://civicclerk.blob.core.windows.net/stream/DUVALCOSB/ff97777bdf.pdf?sv=2015-12-11&sr=b&sig=4bEVy%2B6arEBODObA9REtTCtC9TkQ7Dx8SlrPKHQ08nU%3D&st=2021-05-05T23%3A01%3A16Z&se=2022-05-05T23%3A06%3A16Z&sp=r&rscc=no-cache&rsct=application%2Fpdf&fbclid=IwAR3cvkDmkYmv0mQuFny7HfHej2m6chg8ExLxwj-rAbdIkC9ugVbygFIeD-8

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: 
https://opencorporates.com/companies/us_fl/N19000011884

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: 
https://uniteusdonotdivideus.com/2021/05/01/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

How much PECO funds did Duval County Charter Schools receive in April 2021?

When I asked the FLDOE if these were PECO funds of which I believe the district run schools got zero, this was the response:

Per the 2020 General Appropriations Act, Chapter 2020-111, specific appropriation 21, these capital funds are from the Public Education Capital Outlay and Debt Service Trust Fund (state funds).   

These Duval County charter schools received capital outlay funds from the state every month this year.  The amount received for April:

AprilName of charter school
15,090160471LONE STAR HIGH SCHOOL
8,338160531DUVAL MYCROSCHOOL OF INTEGRATED ACADEMICS AND TECHNOLOGIES
4,823161021SCHOOL OF SUCCESS ACADEMY-SOS
7,060161131WAYMAN ACADEMY OF THE ARTS
36,014161201RIVER CITY SCIENCE ACADEMY
9,919161211TIGER ACADEMY
66,154161221GLOBAL OUTREACH CHARTER ACADEMY
29,932161231DUVAL CHARTER SCHOLARS ACADEMY
19,197161251SOMERSET ACADEMY-ELEMENTARY, EAGLE CAMPUS
10,394161261SOMERSET ACADEMY-MIDDLE, EAGLE CAMPUS
107,446161271KIPP VOICE / KIPP IMPACT K-8
26,947161291RIVER CITY SCIENCE ELEMENTARY ACADEMY
25,028161311DUVAL CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL AT BAYMEADOWS
52,537161321DUVAL CHARTER AT BAYMEADOWS
6,078161331WAVERLY ACADEMY
24,544161371SEACOAST CHARTER ACADEMY
31,866165381SAN JOSE PREP
17,215165401SEASIDE COMMUNITY CHARTER SCHOOL
39,629165411DUVAL CHARTER SCHOOL AT WESTSIDE
8,535165421BISCAYNE HIGH SCHOOL
23,158165441RIVER CITY SCIENCE ACADEMY INNOVATION SCHOOL
34,614165511DUVAL CHARTER SCHOOL AT MANDARIN
49,009165551DUVAL CHARTER SCHOOL AT SOUTHSIDE
43,475165591DUVAL CHARTER SCHOOL AT FLAGLER CENTER
37,139165601RIVER CITY SCIENCE ACADEMY AT MANDARIN
16,461165611BRIDGEPREP ACADEMY DUVAL COUNTY
49,728165621DUVAL CHARTER SCHOOL AT COASTAL
20,989165631SEASIDE CHARTER K-8 SCHOOL
23,256165731GLOBAL OUTREACH CHARTER ACADEMY HIGH SCHOOL
7,827165761SAN JOSE PRIMARY SCHOOL

The above information is from this website:
http://www.fldoe.org/finance/fco/charter-school-capital-outlay/

New charter schoolsThey need to be in existence 2 years to get capital outlay funds OR qualify as a feeder
165801Cornerstone Classical Academy (K-6)Approved in 2019 or 2020
not opening until 2022Global Outreach Charter Academy High School (9 – 10)Approved in 2019 or 2020
165831Jacksonville Classical Academy (K-6)Approved in 2019 or 2020
165711Seaside Charter North CampusApproved in 2019 or 2020
165791Seventh Generation Classical Academy at Mandarin Approved in 2019 or 2020
trying to get money early as a feeder schoolKIPP Jacksonville HS Approved in 2019 or 2020
165841River City Science Academy Intracoastal Approved in 2019 or 2020
not opening until 2022Global Outreach Intercoastal Approved in 2019 or 2020
not opening until 2022River City Science Academy Southeast Approved in 2019 or 2020
not opening until 2022San Jose North Approved in 2019 or 2020
165871Becoming Collegiate AcademySchool board approved January 2021
RIVER CITY EDUCATION ORGANIZATION, INC., TO OPEN SAN JOSE CYBER ACADEMYSchool board approved March 2021
GLOBAL ARTS ACADEMYSchool Board approved May 2021
JACKSONVILLE CLASSICAL ACADEMY EASTSchool Board approved May 2021

Should a gun be required on every K-12 campus? And if yes, carried by whom?

My question for the reasonable reader: Should there be a gun on campus?

  • If you answer yes and a school safety officer shoots someone, will you feel culpable?
  • If you answer no and someone else shoots someone, will you wonder if the armed school safety officer could have stopped it?

Do you agree that people who don’t vote don’t have a right to complain? But how much is required of citizens after we’ve voted? Do we need to keep an eye on what our elected officials are doing?

The state legislators passed a bill that says that there must be a gun on all K-12 public school campuses. It’s 2018 SB 7026. How do you feel about that? Do you see the difference between these two different position statements?
1. Oppose any effort to arm teachers, or anyone who is not a law enforcement officer.
2. Oppose the arming of teachers in public schools.

The difference is that #2 allows for school safety officers (in addition to police officers) to carry a gun on campus. There are rules in place for training these school safety officers. The school district is required to have a gun on campus by state legislators. They have basically three choices as to who can carry that gun
1. A teacher
2. A dedicated school safety officer
3. A police officer

Quote from bill analysis of SB 7026:
[The school safety officer] may carry concealed, approved firearms on campus. Only concealed carry safety holsters and firearms approved by the sheriff may be used under the program. … A school safety officer has the authority to carry weapons when performing his or her official duties.

The Duval school district was sued because they chose to satisfy the state law by arming school safety officers instead of police officers. The school district won the suit. I assume the plaintiffs didn’t want to remain silent. They didn’t want to feel culpable if a school safety officer shot someone. Their conscious is clear?
Link to article about it:
https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/courts/2021/02/19/court-rejects-jacksonville-challenge-armed-school-guardians/4504650001/

School district superintendents walk a thin line. We may or may not learn more later, but for now here’s what we seem to know:

The schools superintendent in Broward County, Fla. had spent years battling accusations tied to his leadership before and after the Parkland school shooting — and the indictment, he claimed, was simply another politically motivated attack tied to the massacre. As parents and officials continue to point fingers over the failures that preceded the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a wide-ranging grand jury investigation has been tasked with probing “possible failures in following school-related safety laws and moving funds solicited for school safety initiatives to other areas of need,” according to Florida state officials.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/04/28/florida-broward-parkland-runcie-resigns/

References

Link to bill 2018 SB 7026:
https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2018/7026

Excerpt from Florida statute 1006.12
Safe-school officers at each public school.—For the protection and safety of school personnel, property, students, and visitors, each district school board and school district superintendent shall partner with law enforcement agencies or security agencies to establish or assign one or more safe-school officers at each school facility within the district, including charter schools. … A school safety officer has the authority to carry weapons when performing his or her official duties.

1006.12 says each school must have one or more safe-school officers but they can be
(1) SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER
(2) SCHOOL SAFETY OFFICER
(3) SCHOOL GUARDIAN.
(4) SCHOOL SECURITY GUARD

I think (1) and (2) are both law enforcement officers.
(3) is defined below and I think Duval is doing (3) (b) ONLY and not (3)(a).

Detailed explanation (3) SCHOOL GUARDIAN:

At the school district’s or the charter school governing board’s discretion, as applicable, pursuant to s. 30.15, a school district or charter school governing board may participate in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program to meet the requirement of establishing a safe-school officer. The following individuals may serve as a school guardian, in support of school-sanctioned activities for purposes of s. 790.115, upon satisfactory completion of the requirements under s. 30.15(1)(k) and certification by a sheriff:(a) A school district employee or personnel, as defined under s. 1012.01, or a charter school employee, as provided under s. 1002.33(12)
(a), who volunteers to serve as a school guardian in addition to his or her official job duties; or
(b) An employee of a school district or a charter school who is hired for the specific purpose of serving as a school guardian.

My understanding is the school district got more money if they agreed to participate in the school guardian program. This article says not every county is participating in the guardian program:
http://www.fldoe.org/safe-schools/guardian-program.stml

What is the future of charter schools?

It’s interesting to read the 2012-2013 study. My comments are in red. Everything else is from the study at this link:
https://lwvfl.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/issue-education-studies-actions-statewide-school-study.pdf

This ship has left the port, eh? Is there any chance of giving the school district this kind of flexibility?

  • Districts must identify unmet student and community educational needs as part of their strategic plans and submit priorities for alternative and/or charter schools to the Florida Department of Education.
  • Only charter schools that offer identifiable innovative teaching/learning methods or meet specific unmet needs should be authorized.
  • Districts must identify unmet student and community educational needs as part of their strategic plans and submit priorities for alternative and/or charter schools to the Florida Department of Education.
  • Only charter schools that offer identifiable innovative teaching/learning methods or meet specific unmet needs should be authorized.

These seem like ideas we should be able to advocate for:

  • A charter school governing board must have a minimum of one local representative, not the administrator, who resides in the community and is answerable to the school parents and community.
  • Those charter schools that educate students requiring ESE services must hire appropriately certified full or part time instructors before applying for additional funding for the services. 
  • Charter schools must report teacher and student retention.
  • The charter school audit template must be adequate for comparison and analysis and identify facilities ownership and management contractors.
  • Teachers and administrators, including principals, must meet certifications and qualifications at the same level as all other public school instructors or administrators.
  • All schools, even small ones, receiving state funds must report state assessment test scores, and receive some indicator of student achievement levels.
  • Administrators and board members of all public schools, including charters, must not supervise or determine compensation for family members.
  • Members of charter school governing boards must not have financial interests in the charter school.
  • Legislators serving on education or appropriation committees must recuse themselves on votes related to charter school finance if they have financial interests in charter schools.
  • As a recipient of public education funds, charter schools should be required to meet the same procurement requirements as other public institutions, including competitive bids for leasing, acquisition of sites and purchasing of supplies, equipment and facilities. The records should meet all public records laws for full disclosure.
  • Charter schools that acquire their facility using public funds must assure that the facility reverts to public ownership at the termination of the charter. If a facility is subject to a mortgage to be paid using public funds, the mortgage must disclose and protect the public’s interest in the facility.

These should be monitored by the FLDOE not the local school district staff.  The school district has enough on their plate especially if they don’t get the funds for the administrative staff to do this or the ability to deny charter school applications.

  • Charter school admissions and dismissal policies and procedures should be supervised by district staff to ensure they conform to state guidelines.


Has your view changed over time?  

How do you view charter schools? One of these two choices or another way?

Quote from ref 1:

The story goes something like this. In 1988, Albert Shanker, legendary president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), gave a speech at the National Press Club where he outlined his vision for a new kind of publicly funded, independently managed school. He called them “charters” and saw them as educational laboratories, where teachers could try out new pedagogical approaches. By empowering teachers to experiment with their craft, charters could serve as R&D spaces for new and better practices that could then be transferred back into traditional public schools. In a New York Times column published later that year, Shanker carried his ideas to the wider public.

Quote from ref 2:

Charter School Purpose: The purpose of charter schools is to serve unmet needs with a primary focus on low income families, reading, and innovative instructional methods. Local needs are best identified by the local school district as part of its strategic plan. To avoid inefficiency through duplicative programs or to avoid insufficient funding for either program to be successful, charter schools should serve as a complement to, not a competitor of, traditional public schools.

Quote from ref 3

Charter schools were intended to be centers of education experimentation and innovation, but they generally neither invent new teaching methods nor develop and spread new education practices. They’re businesses first, and schools second.

https://networkforpubliceducation.org/privatization-toolkit/

Ref 1 is a great article and worth the read.

Ref 2 is to the League of Women Voters-Florida study

http://files.ctctcdn.com/9e023c2e001/312a667d-ca9e-4dc6-be72-3eb1d9d47c25.pdf

It was referenced in this article. Excerpt from article:

RAVITCH: Florida is one of the most corrupt states in the country when it comes to education. I’ve read the reports of a group called Integrity Florida, which is a government ethics watchdog. I read the reports of the Florida League of Women Voters, and when they write about charter schools, they write about the blatant conflicts of interests of the people in the Florida Legislature

In New Book, National Education Historian Calls Florida ‘Model Of Lawlessness And Greed’

Ref 3 is Toolkit: School Privatization Explained


https://networkforpubliceducation.org/privatization-toolkit/

Why don’t the state legislators give local school districts more flexibility rather than outsourcing education to charter schools?

The facts as stated in various articles seem conflicting. BUT let’s suppose they have good ideas to make the neighborhood school better for the neighborhood kids. Why wasn’t the principal allowed more flexibility to do those things as a neighborhood school?

“297 parents voted for the charter, with 51 voting against the measure. A charter would allow us to venture outside the box to give our Hispanic population different resources,” he said. “We have a large Latino population. We need to do things to ensure they are able to acquire the language at a more different pace. We need the autonomy to do things differently.” “It is impossible to expect these students to take a Florida Standards Assessment in English,” she said. By contrast, if the school transitions to a charter, it would give Kaiser the freedom to choose the best learning methods to help her students succeed, she said. Hundley said there would be several changes to the curriculum if the conversion takes place: The school would change the way it teaches history, to better appeal to the students’ heritage; it would extend instructional days by one hour; the school would provide dual-language electives; students would be able to take classes in English and Spanish simultaneously. That’s excerpts from this link:
https://www.redefinedonline.org/2017/07/lincoln-middle/

  • How easy is it for a school district to deny a charter school application?
  • Why would parents vote to convert a neighborhood school to a charter school rather than lobby their elected school board to make changes to the neighborhood school?

Once the neighborhood school was converted to a charter school the kids were rezoned to other neighborhood schools. The kids had the same “choices” that they had previous to the conversion except there was a new charter school choice closer to their home and they’d get automatic admission at the newly assigned neighborhood school. 297 parents voted for the neighborhood school to convert to a charter school and 51 parents voted against the measure.

The Superintendent at the time, Diana Greene, told the board the charter school application met the minimal standards so if the board denied the application, then the state officials would probably override the board and side with the charter. Board member Scott Hopes sharply questioned the school’s finances, curriculum and leadership. The way the state handles conversions is the district retains a small portion of charter school’s per-pupil funding, maintains ownership of the building and is responsible for the maintenance, while the charter school is responsible for day-to-day operating costs. Board member Hopes said that is a raw deal for the district.
Quote from the article (link in button above):

Board member Scott Hopes and board vice chairman John Colon began gathering support for legislation they say would limit charter school leaders’ salaries, make charter leaders disclose their finances and require conversion charters like Lincoln to pay to use district-owned facilities. “There needs to be a level playing field,” Hopes said. “If the school district has to provide a building and maintenance, you should not be collecting the same per-pupil payment as if you were responsible for maintaining that building.”

The new charter school had financial problems as explained in this article:
https://thebradentontimes.com/clients/thebradentontimes/Ken_aff.pdf

In a 95-page ruling, an administrative law judge Friday backed a decision by the Manatee County School Board to terminate a contract with the charter school that he said showed “gross financial mismanagement,” including failing to pay salaries and payroll taxes, getting cut off by food suppliers and facing a shutoff of water service. Among other things, Cohen wrote that the school had more than $1.5 million in outstanding financial liabilities as of Aug. 23, including nearly $374,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service and almost $82,000 owed to the Florida Retirement System. Also, it owed $259,000 in unpaid salaries and $76,000 to Humana for employee health-insurance coverage.

https://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/education/2019-09-29/manatee-charter-school-contract-terminated-for-gross-financial-mismanagement

I said in the first line of this blog post that the facts seem inconsistent across the different articles. This January 2021 lawsuit says

The “public interest” component in this case consists of the Defendants [the school board, etc] having deprived the Plaintiffs Lincoln Memorial Academy and Eddie Hundley [the charter school operators] of their contractual right to operate a majority-African-American run private charter school that is specifically designed to improve the provision of public school education to underprivileged, inner-city African American youth,

https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/review?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3A9d2c021e-0740-4f97-8021-8b3df7d0c5c0&fbclid=IwAR0vxktj4B03R6A_0zV_3JQHv5MhEw24vIUjDt0ubnu9Mf3ualmVAc7uES8#pageNum=10

Critical Race Theory

Link to video of Education Commissioner Corcoran

Corcoran says beginning around minute 29 in the video:
If we can get Education right, we can have kids be literate and then understand what it means to be a self-governing citizen in a self-governing country, we’ll win it back. … Education is our sword, you know …

Corcoran says beginning around minute 37 in the video:
So we rewrote all of our standards, … so now the books have come back … but I didn’t think to say “okay and keep all of the crazy liberal stuff out” and … they hide it in “social emotional learning” so it doesn’t SAY “Critical Race Theory” … now we have to go back and say, if it’s electronic, we want it out and, on top of that, we’re passing a rule this coming month that says, for the 185,000 teachers, you can’t indoctrinate students with stuff that’s not based on our standards, the new B.E.S.T. standards. But you have to police it on a daily basis … I’ve censored or fired or terminated numerous teachers for doing that. I’m getting sued right now in Duval County … because it was an entire classroom memorialized to Black Lives Matter… we made sure she was terminated

What does Hillsdale College and Education Commissioner Corcoran mean by Critical Race Theory?

I don’t know how but I have been placed on a mailing list to get propaganda from Hillsdale College. The most recent one had the headline: “Critical Race Theory: What It Is and How to Fight it.” I’m saving the flyer in case anyone wants to see it.

As a rebuttal to the Hillsdale College propaganda flyer, I offer excerpts from a couple of articles :

Crenshaw notes that CRT is not a noun, but a verb. It cannot be confined to a static and narrow definition but is considered to be an evolving and malleable practice. It critiques how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism perpetuate a racial caste system that relegates people of color to the bottom tiers. CRT also recognizes that race intersects with other identities, including sexuality, gender identity, and others. CRT recognizes that racism is not a bygone relic of the past. Instead, it acknowledges that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on Black Americans and other people of color continue to permeate the social fabric of this nation. 

Mari Matsudi described CRT as the work of progressive legal scholars seeking to address the role of racism in the law. CRT grew from Critical Legal Studies (CLS), which argued that the law was not objective or apolitical. CLS was a significant departure from earlier conceptions of the law (and other fields of scholarship) as objective, neutral, principled, and dissociated from social or political considerations. Like proponents of CLS, critical race theorists recognized that the law could be complicit in maintaining an unjust social order. 

CRT calls for considering unintended consequences of proposed remedies, addressing intersecting policies and structures, and acting intentionally to ensure that harm is not further replicated by the legal system.

Like any other approach, CRT can be misunderstood and misapplied. It has been distorted and attacked. And it continues to change and evolve. The hope in CRT is in its recognition that the same policies, structures, and scholarship that can function to disenfranchise and oppress so many also holds the potential to emancipate and empower many. It provides a lens through which the civil rights lawyer can imagine a more just nation.
https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/civil-rights-reimagining-policing/a-lesson-on-critical-race-theory/

Critics of these efforts warn that the bills [that seek to ban Critical Race Theory from being taught in schools] would effectively prevent public schools and universities from holding discussions about racism; the New Hampshire measure in particular would ban companies that do business with government entities from conducting diversity, equity, and inclusion programs…The larger purpose, it seems, is to rally the Republican base—to push back against the recent reexaminations of the role that slavery and segregation have played in American history and the attempts to redress those historical offenses. The shorthand for the Republicans’ bogeyman is an idea that has until now mostly lived in academia: critical race theory....The theory’s proponents argue that the nation’s sordid history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination is embedded in our laws, and continues to play a central role in preventing Black Americans and other marginalized groups from living lives untouched by racism. …Conservatives are not the only critics of diversity training. For years, some progressives, including critical race theorists, have questioned its value: Is it performative? Is it the most effective way to move toward equity or is it simply an effective way of restating the obvious and stalling meaningful action? But that is not the fight that has materialized over the past nine months. Instead, it is a confrontation with a cartoonish version of critical race theory.
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/05/gops-critical-race-theory-fixation-explained/618828/

MONICA BELL: I think both are true. Across the spectrum, saying that America is racist is read by people saying that Americans are racist. We don’t have a good way in our society of thinking about the difference between structural and systemic racism and individual racism. This is the big problem.
https://www.politico.com/newsletters/the-recast/2021/05/04/america-racism-politicians-response-492718

Vice President Kamala Harris said America is not a “racist country” but the nation must “speak the truth” about its history with racism on ABC News’ “Good Morning America” on Thursday. “One of the greatest threats to our national security is domestic terrorism manifested by white supremacists,” Harris said, referencing reports from federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies identifying white supremacists as a persistent and rising terror threat. “And so these are issues that we must confront, and it does not help to heal our country, to unify us as a people, to ignore the realities of that,” the vice president said. “The idea is that we want to unify the country but not without speaking truth and requiring accountability where it is appropriate,” she urged.
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/04/29/kamala-harris-responds-tim-scott-saying-america-not-racist-country/4886682001/

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he is adamant that Critical Race Theory not be taught in public schools. [Why? Is it just whistle blowing to a racist base?]?

https://tampabaytimes-fl.newsmemory.com/?publink=027695eda_1345d71


Excerpts from the Hillsdale College’s propaganda pamphlet about Critical Race Theory which seems a very bizarre explanation of CRT based on the other articles I have read:

Marx believed that the primary characteristic of industrial societies was the imbalance of power between capitalists and workers. The solution to that imbalance, according to Marx, was revolution: the workers would eventually gain consciousness of their plight, seize the means of production, overthrow the capitalist class, and …. Abandoning Marx’s economic dialectic of capitalists and workers, the Marxist intellectuals in the West substituted race for class and sought to create a revolutionary coalition of the dispossessed based on racial and ethic categories. … The radical Left has proved resilient and enduring–which is where critical race theory comes in.

https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Imprimis_Mar_3-21_6pgNM.pdf

Jacksonville charter schools got these capital outlay funds

The above data is from this link:
http://www.fldoe.org/finance/fco/charter-school-capital-outlay/

Some of the schools didn’t get funds some years (unless I made a mistake–you can double check at the link provided) so I must assume they didn’t meet one of these criteria:

Have an annual audit that does not reveal any of the financial emergency conditions provided in s. 218.503(1) for the most recent fiscal year for which such audit results are available.

Have satisfactory student achievement based on state accountability standards applicable to the charter school.

Have been accredited by a regional accrediting association as defined by State Board of Education rule;

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=1000-1099/1013/Sections/1013.62.html

HB 611 and SB 146 in 2021-civics education

Here’s what HB 611 would add to Florida statute 1003.44 if it passes:
(5)(a) The commissioner shall develop minimum criteria for
19 a civic literacy practicum that helps students evaluate the
20 roles, rights, and responsibilities of United States citizens
21 and identify effective methods of active participation in
22 society, government, and the political system. The practicum may
23 be incorporated into a school’s curriculum for the high school
24 United States Government course under s. 1003.4282(3)(d)
25 beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.
(b) The purpose of the practicum is to inspire meaningful
27 civic engagement and help students learn how governmental
28 entities at the local, state, or federal level interact with the
29 public which they represent and serve. The practicum must
30 provide students with an opportunity to be civically engaged
31 through any of the following activities:
32 1. Participation in an unpaid internship at a governmental
33 entity.
34 2. A series of simulations or observations of one or more
35 governmental entities performing their core functions in
36 relation to the public. Such functions may include
37 administrative, legislative, or judicial functions and other
38 official business conducted by a governmental entity.
39 3. Learning about the United States citizenship
40 naturalization process and attending a United States citizenship
41 naturalization oath ceremony.
42 (c) The practicum must require a student to complete a
43 research paper that must include all of the following:
44 1. Reflection on the student’s experience participating in
45 the civic engagement activity.
46 2. Explanation of the significance of the governmental
47 entity’s role in the student’s community, the state, or the
48 nation.
49 3. Explanation of how the governmental entity is
50 responsive to the public.
51 (d) The hours outside of classroom instruction that a
52 student devotes to an unpaid civic engagement activity under
53 paragraph (b) may count toward the community service
54 requirements for participation in the Florida Bright Futures
55 Scholarship Program. School districts are encouraged to include
56 and accept civic literacy practicum activities and hours toward
57 requirements for academic awards, especially those awards that
58 include community service as a criterion or selection factor.

This is what SB 146 will add to 1003.44:
(5)(a) In order to help students evaluate the roles,  rights, and responsibilities of United States citizens and determine methods of active participation in society, government, and the political system, the commissioner shall develop minimum criteria for a nonpartisan civic literacy
practicum that may be incorporated into a school’s curriculum for the high school United States Government course required by s. 1003.4282(3)(d), beginning with the 2022-2023 school year.
[line 33]  The commissioner also shall develop a process by which a district school board can verify that a student successfully completed a practicum meeting those criteria.
   1. The criteria must require a student to do all of the following:
   a. Identify a civic issue that impacts his or her
   community.
   b. Rigorously research the issue from multiple perspectives and develop a plan for his or her personal involvement in addressing the issue.
   c. Create a portfolio to evaluate and reflect upon his or her experience and the outcomes or likely outcomes of his or her involvement. A portfolio must, at minimum, include research,  evidence, and a written plan of involvement.
 2. A civic literacy practicum must be nonpartisan, focus on addressing at least one community issue, and promote a student’s ability to consider differing points of view and engage in civil discourse with individuals who hold an opposing opinion.
(b) The hours outside of classroom instruction which a student devotes to the nonpartisan civic literacy practicum to implement his or her plan of involvement may be counted toward meeting the community service requirements of the Florida Bright
Futures Scholarship Program. School districts must include and accept nonpartisan civic literacy practicum activities and hours in requirements for academic awards, especially those awards that include community service as a criterion or selection factor.
(c) The State Board of Education shall annually designate each public school in this state which provides students with high-quality civic learning, including civic-engagement skills, as a Freedom School. The state board shall establish the criteria for a school’s designation as a Freedom School. The
criteria must include all of the following:
1. The extent to which strategies to develop high-quality civic learning, including civic-engagement skills, are integrated into the classroom using best instructional practices.
2. The scope of integration of high-quality civic learning, including civic-engagement skills, across the school’s curricula.
3. The extent to which the school supports interdisciplinary, teacher-led professional learning communities to support continuous improvement in instruction and student achievement.
4. The minimum percentage of students graduating with a standard high school diploma who must successfully complete a civic literacy practicum and earn community service hours as provided in this subsection.

Note that HB 611 says nothing about nonpartisan whereas its companion bill SB 146 does mention nonpartisan.