Sometimes the sun shines, and sometimes it rains. I guess it is climate change?? It rained on St Lucie and Indian River’s school boards. They had voted to reject three Somerset charter schools. There were the usual complaints that the charters offered little new and also disrupted district desegregation efforts. These new charters were proposed under the High Achieving Charter law that allows charters to locate in other counties if they have a charter school with at least two A’s and a B somewhere else.
School grades being school grades, high performing means little. We all have schools that change from an ‘A’ to a ‘C’ depending upon how zone lines change. Charters can maintain grades by strategic choice of location, students, and dismissal policies.
We had a low income school close here in Gainesville and reopen as a PreK and kindergarten school. It was a great idea and may help that neighborhood’s children immensely in the long run. The older students were zoned into nearby schools. Those school grades dropped the next year even though the schools had the same staffs. A few lower income students here and there and all of a sudden a school isn’t so good or is much better.
Somerset schools are part of the Academica for-profit educational management firm. They are good at making money, but the districts claim their charter proposals were ‘cookie cutters’ that offered nothing new or unique for their counties. Under law, charters are supposed to have clear and convincing evidence that new charters do not substantially replicate an existing school. The Indian River school board says that the Somerset charter demographics are different and its program is not different from the Indian River schools program. They, however, must welcome a new elementary and middle school that will remove close to 800 students from district schools. St. Lucie will have a new charter middle school to complement its charter high school.
This is not about meeting students’ needs. It is about expanding charter networks and profits. For example, the new Indian River charter is needed because its charter high school is building a new facility. It currently leases space from Indian River College. They need the money. Indian River does not need the school. Nevertheless, the State Board of Education overruled the local districts once again.