Many Florida cities are trying to protect themselves form Charter Schools, Jacksonville is not one of them.

These are facts, Duval’s charter schools when compared to its
public schools under perform.

KIPP the model for high achieving charter schools spends
about a third more per pupil which allows them to have a longer school day,
year, a smaller teacher-student ratio, they don’t backfill, that’s replace students
that leave and their students have access to a dedicated music curriculum. Despite
all this their school grades have been shoddy. A F the lowest grade in
Northeast Florida, a miraculous B, a grade protected C that would have been a D
if Florida did not have the rule protecting schools from dropping more than one
letter grade and another B. I submit that if any public school had those
resources and advantages they would have maintained straight A grades.

Charter schools have got the message that they cannot be successful
in our poorer neighborhoods and have fled to the suburbs and affluent
neighborhoods where they are not needed to set up shop. There they siphon away students
and resources from schools that were doing well, invariably hurting those
neighborhood schools.

In the last few years the percentage of Charter schools has
increased by more than 300 percent in Jacksonville from 11 to 36. Ask yourself
if 5 years ago you thought, what Jacksonville really needs is 25 more schools. It
also wasn’t too long ago that a study was recommending we close, not because of  performance but because of underutilization, several public schools.

We have a charter school problem. We have too many that we
either don’t need or that are doing poorly. As for choice being a reason,
choice simply for the sake of having choice is a bad choice and that’s not
coming from me, that’s coming from arguably the number one authority on charter
schools.

Dr. Raymond of the Stanford Credo Charter project, recently
said, I
actually am kind of a pro-market kinda girl. But it doesn’t seem to work in a
choice environment for education. I’ve studied competitive markets for much of
my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And (education) is the only industry/sector
where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to
expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I
think there are other supports that are needed… The policy environment really
needs to focus on creating much more information and transparency about
performance than we’ve had for the 20 years of the charter school movement. We
need to have a greater degree of oversight of charter schools. But I also think
we have to have some oversight of the overseers.

She’s right. Parents shouldn’t have to weight through advertising or
be expected to know that the narrative that public schools are failing is a
false one. It’s not choice that is being sold it is privatization that is being
camouflaged and you have to look no farther than Florida’s for profit colleges
and prison takeovers to know what a disaster privatization has been.

One of the biggest problems we have is the superintendent and school
board with the exception of Paula Wright, all at least partly owe their positions
to charter school interests. Gary Chartrand the powerful chair of the state
board of education, despite never being a teacher nor working in a school, not
only sold Superintendent Vitti to the school board facilitating his hiring but
he and his equally wealthy friends have financially supported the other board
members. He not only brought KIPP to town but he has used his position on the
state board to rubber stamp charter school application after application over
the objections of numerous school districts. Our school board has literally taken
thousands of dollars from him, other charter school operators and their
supporters.

It’s a little off topic but Mr. Chartrand is also responsible for the
rule protecting schools from dropping more than one letter grade which greatly
benefitted KIPP, the KIPP school was also just given 1.6 million dollars from
the district through a charter school collaboration grant, and the KIPP school
was allowed a massive expansion despite dubious results and the fact the public
schools closest to it are greatly underutilized. Some might point out that he has
also has helped raise fifty million dollars for the district, through the
Quality Education for all initiative. I asked to see the minutes of the
organization to see if there was evidence of any quid pro quo, (KIPP expansion,
KIPP grant) however their meetings, despite the fact at them they are setting
district policy, are not open to the public and was told no.    

If we had a more motivated media I believe all these connections would
have been reported. Is there something insidious going on? I have my suspicious
but the truth is we will never know because Chartrand and the board have been
allowed to act in secrecy behind closed doors.

Vitti and the board publicly have bemoaned the expansion of charter schools
and how they have siphoned away scarce resources, done a worse job and set up
shop in neighborhoods that don’t need them but the truth is nobody in the state
has been more accommodating to them.

Other cities are demanding that charter boards be local, that chains
can’t expand until all the schools under their control are doing well and that
the schools have some form of innovation that the public schools aren’t
offering.  

Some districts are calling for surety bonds to make sure the organizations
are financially stable and criminal and performance background checks to make
sure individuals or organizations are sound. I personally think there has to be
a need rather than just to provide choice for a charter schools to be allowed
to open.

Take for instance the
Charter School USA school at the Flagler Center. It is being placed right in
the middle of four high performing schools three of which are under
enrolled. It is in an area town that does not need a charter school and the
only possible purpose it serves is to enrich the owner of the for-profit
Charter Schools USA. It was approved on the same day the Acclaim charter school
announced it was closing, with the super’s recommendation by a six-one vote. The
super and boards actions once again did match up with their rhetoric.

I started above with some facts, here is perhaps the most damning; in
Florida over 280 charter schools have opened taken public money and closed leaving
families in a lurch including 9 in Duval, one of which closed on May 5th
a month before the end of the school year, hundreds of families were sent
scrambling.

It might be worth injuring public schools if charters were performing
well, stable and innovative but the truth is they are not. It’s time the super
and board stood up for our students and the community rather than their financial
backers.  It’s past time we put in
reasonable requirements that protect our community.

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