Gerard Robinson knows he’s being fact-checked. Twice in a weekend interview with Gradebook’s Jeff Solocheck, he clearly sought to unburden the weight of a question. Despite having his guard up, Robinson let loose with some real whoppers. Responding to a probe by Solochek regarding recent instances of serious malfeasance in charter schools, Robinson said this:
There is nothing in place right now that prohibits the local school boards from making decisions. … We’ve had charters for a very long time. We know the ones that work, we know the ones that don’t work. That’s not a new issue. The reason I ask about what keeps you up at night is because there are some of those same challenges in traditional public schools.
Politifact may have a liar, liar pants on fire on their hands. Emphasis mine, by-the-way.
Robinson’s, “there is nothing in place right now that prohibits the local school boards from making decisions” just isn’t true. And he knows it. Robinson is aware of current charter school policies which allow charter school to go over the head of local school boards if they are rejected by them. Seminole, Duval and Orange county districts were overruled in February by the state for rejecting charter school applications. Another failing Duval charter school is looking to appeal the closure of its school by the local board. For Robinson to imply otherwise in the manner he did is to abdicate his responsibility as a public servant.
Moreover, Solochek’s question was about charter schools improperly spending money on religious material and consultants. Robinson’s “there are some of those same challenges in public schools” serves as a smear of the public schools he is supposed to be leading. In the case such troubling events occur in a public school, immediate mechanisms are in place to correct it. In the case of the Pinellas Scientology charter school Solochek appears to be referring to, no immediate recourse was available to parents and children.
By designation of his position as State Education Commissioner, Robinson is supposed to go about his duties as the state’s top educator. Not charter school’s top lobbyist. In his call for equitable funding for charter schools, he completely ignores the reality that charter schools do not provide costly services like transportation, special education services and free and/or reduced meals that Florida’s public schools do. To ignore this in his role as the state’s top educator is further evidence that Robinson is focused on a separate and narrow agenda.