Duval Challenge Unmasks Politization of Florida Board of Education

In an astonishing move last month, the Florida Board of Education  ignored the recommendation of its own Charter School Board and overruled Duval’s denial of a Florida Virtual Charter. Yesterday, Duval moved to appeal the state ruling. Writes Teresa Stepzinski in the Florida Times-Union:

The Duval County School Board will challenge the state Board of Education’s decision approving an online-only charter school’s application to open in Jacksonville.

The School Board told its attorney Thursday to appeal the state board’s approval of Northeast Florida Virtual Charter School Board Inc. to Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal.

School Board Vice Chairman Fel Lee said the issue is bigger than just this one virtual charter school. It’s the principle, said Lee, emphasizing that the board wasn’t picking on the school.

“This is precedent-setting,” Lee said. “If we were not to do this appeal, what we would basically be saying is ‘we’re not going to do our vetting process.’ ”

Lee said the district applied the standards according to state statutes when it evaluated and subsequently rejected the charter’s application. School district officials said the charter’s application failed 12 of the 19 categories: 15 categories must be met to pass, according to state law.

The state Charter School Appeal Commission upheld Duval’s denial. The state board, however, overruled both on Feb. 28. State board members voting in favor of the charter said it would be unfair to penalize virtual charter schools because Florida’s charter application process doesn’t accommodate their special needs.

By overruling both the school district and the charter appeal commission, Lee said Thursday, it appears the state school board “wants a different set of criteria.”

“We applied the standards … and the state board doesn’t want it that way. There is a disconnect here somewhere. …” Lee said.

Lee is justified in feeling that way. Upholding the denial should have been a slam dunk. Why the Board felt they even could or should overrule open the door for further questions. A comment left in my blog from a Florida Virtual School official indicated that this school may be affiliated with K12 Inc  a major sponsor of Jeb Bush’s foundation. Did this influence the Board. Why did they feel they should brush aside their own standards?

But what privatization zealots don’t want you to realize is that political appointees are overruling elected officials now in Florida. Governors can appoint ideologues to the Board who get to pass judgement on elected school board members who actually have to answer to voters.  Ending local control of schools has long been a goal of privateers and its at work already in Florida.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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