Palm Beach School District Sues State

palm beachShould a charter be able to open only because they can fill out a form properly?  In February the Palm Beach League of Women Voters sponsored a panel on charter school issues.   Frank Biden, spokesperson for Mavericks Schools, was there along with a Palm Beach County Commissioner and a School Board member.  He acknowledged in a Sun Sentinel interview that “{Charter schools} should not open in areas where there is not a need.”

This sounds good, but what has happened since?

Of course we know that the Florida House adjourned early and none of the proposed legislation for regulating charters was passed.

Palm Beach school district, however, became proactive. When CSUSA petitioned to open a seventh charter school in South Palm Beach, the district said ‘No’, the school is not innovative and cited legislation requiring charters to be innovative.  In April, the State Board of Education overruled the district.  Now the district is suing the State.

Palm Beach has reason to be concerned.  Thirty charter schools have closed in the county since 2005.  Then, Wellington charter was opened last year across the street from Emerald Cove, a high performing traditional public school.  There was no need for another charter there.

The expansion of charters without regard for need or financial viability has long been a bone of contention between districts and charters.  Even Frank Biden, the brother of Vice President Joe Biden, acknowledges the problems.  Biden said that “charter schools support tighter regulations…We need to impose legislation this year that takes into account a bond for charter school applications, penalties for people who make any error in any way, shape, or form and impose real sanctions.”

The legislature must address the problems and dispel the perception expressed in the media that its members are “too cozy with charter schools.”  We know where that concern originates:

  • Senator Legg, Chair of the Education Committee operates a charter school with his wife.
  • Representative Marlene O’Toole is a representative from The Villages whose charter school just dismissed 140 students.  While she does not appear to be a board member, she is employed by a private educational foundation Take Stock in Children, and is cited for conflict of interest in voting for millions of dollars in funding for it.
  • Rep. Erik Fresen’s sister and brother-in-law operate Academica, a for-profit charter management firm.  He is Chair of the House subcommittee for Education Appropriations.
  • Representative Manny Diaz and Senator Anitere Flores run Doral College, an online dual enrollment school that is operated by Academica and funded by its charter high schools student enrollments and a transfer of $400,000 from Doral Academy, a charter school.

The legislature will respond to the concerns of the public.  If better district oversight of charter schools and stronger regulation is required to ensure better management of charter schools, we all have to let the legislature know that these concerns matter.  The Palm Beach School Board is doing its part.








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One Comment

  1. I believe time is ripe for some additional oversight of charters. Impatiently waiting for the decision from our state supreme court.

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