Florida already has over 650 charters schools which have not made a dent in the achievement gap or any other desirable goal. Yet, the federal Department of Education awarded more charter start up money to Florida than to any other state. This $58,454,516 million goes to start schools, share leading practices in theory to improve educational outcomes for students in high need communities. A three year study of previous federal startup charters in Florida, conducted by the Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services (CAPES) at the University of Florida, makes one wonder why Florida was given so much more money. The CAPES study found no academic achievement advantage for the charters, and where differences occurred, they favored traditional public schools with similar student populations. There were moreover, some serious problems in these federally funded schools. When teacher attrition was compared with traditional schools, two to three times as many teachers left the charters during the school year than at regular public schools. The impact on those children could not have been positive. It has already been documented that teachers are more likely to leave charters due to lower salaries and lack of benefits. To have high attrition in the middle of the year indicates something more must be happening.
There is no explanation why Florida received no funding for recognized high quality charters. One wonders why so few of these ‘high quality’ charter management firms even operate in Florida. Of course, there is the other obvious question about any charter. What makes them high quality? Is it that they too often tend to recruit more ‘promising’ students and push out those that do not live up to expectations? Do they have substantial funding from the private sector to be able to support extended days, tutoring and behavioral services? We read mostly from the political sector that more money does not improve quality, but in some cities like New York, it gives the appearance of quality. It is easy to be duped by fresh paint and laptops.