So believes former charter school principal and current Palm Beach School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw. From yesterday’s column by the Palm Beach Post’s Jac Versteeg
Parents and students might be more willing to make (the) switch because of the charter school fad. “Magnet”used to be the faddish school label. Then “A-rated.” Now, it’s “charter.” In fact, charter schools run the gamut in quality, assuming the state’s iffy grading system is a valid way to judge. Charters make up a disproportionate number of F-rated schools, with the excuse that they enroll students who have struggled in traditional schools. But many also earn As. In some cases, as with magnet schools, that’s the result of cherry-picking good students with motivated parents.
Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature have been big charter school boosters, seeking laws to allow faster expansion, easier conversion of traditional schools to charters and giving them more money for construction and maintenance. The emergence of for-profit charters and their lobbyists is a bigger factor in the movement than improved education.
Palm Beach County School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw, a former charter school principal, worries that charter schools are being approved at a pace that outruns accountability. His concern is validated by district Inspector General Lung Chiu’s finding that Mavericks High School in Palm Springs collected $160,000 too much after the for-profit charter school inflated enrollment.
The overbilled amount, which the district is trying to recover, came to light only after disgruntled employees revealed it. Mavericks is run by a company headed by Frank Biden, who is Vice President Joe Biden’s brother. For-profit charter companies, along with “virtual schools” and voucher supporters, also gain clout through political contributions, which totaled more than $2 million in the 2012 elections.
The state’s appointed board of education has overridden Shaw’s local elected board on several charter schools they rejected. The fact that the Palm Beach school district is “trying to recover” the money reveals the rub.
Such a dynamic is ripe for a legal challenge that seeks relief for local boards. The entity charged with fiscal and physical oversight (local school boards) is having a contract forced upon them that they do not want (by the state board). And the local board has to clean up the mess on their dime when something goes wrong as is the case right now in Flagler county where a charter school closed the day before classes were to begin again in January.