Charter Schools USA Fails in Last Minute Attempt to Poach Seven Broward Schools

Pines City Manager Charlie Dodge sprung the deal at the last minute. From CBSMiami:

The question of whether to privatize the city run charter schools followed contract disputes between the Broward Teachers Union and city leaders who said  the city doesn’t have enough money to run the highly-successful Pines Charter schools unless there are major salary cuts for the city’s 375 teachers.

Pines leaders have been warning that the city’s seven-school charter system for months that it was struggling financially. In recent weeks, the city asked its teachers, who are represented by BTU, to accept a pay cut that would cause them to be paid less than teachers who work for the much-larger Broward School District

As a result, Pembroke Pines city officials responded with the surprise plan to privatize by partnering with Charter Schools, USA, a Fort Lauderdale-based firm that is one of the nation’s largest for-profit charter school companies

The move to privatize was spearheaded by Pines City Manager Charlie Dodge, who also oversees the city’s charter schools. He sent a mass email Monday that sought to reassure parents. Dodge wrote that the schools were struggling to close a $2.1 million deficit, and he blasted the teachers union for insisting on more teacher raises as opposed to trying to find a workable budget solution.

Dodge’s email downplayed the massive staff turnover that’s expected if Charter Schools, USA is brought in. The city manager noted that the same school principals and vice-principals will remain, and “teachers will have the opportunity to be re-employed by this new organization.”

In the end a deal was reached and Charter Schools USA was left holding the bag. But it’s  clear that Dodge leveraged BTU into a deal by holding Charter Schools USA over their heads. It must have been quite a 24 hours for Dodge as he was facing considerable opposition to his plan. This from Sun Sentinel reporter Heather Carney:

PEMBROKE PINES — Parts of the city’s nationally recognized charter school system may be privatized as early as this week and more than 300 teachers could lose their jobs.

Students, parents, and teachers fear that this change will lower the quality of education at the schools. But city officials say Pines doesn’t have enough money to keep the A-rated schools open and that privatizing parts of them is the only solution

The city plans to contract with Charter Schools USA for $10 million a year to operate and manage most aspects of the charter system. The schools, which include 5,600 students and employ 323 teachers, are funded through state tax dollars and are not private schools.

“This means Thursday I will be unemployed,” said Pines charter high school teacher Kim Hughes. “Most teachers can’t believe this is happening. We never thought we’d be treated like this.”

The city says the partnership will resolve the school system’s long-term financial troubles, including a $2.1 million budget shortfall for the upcoming school year and a yearlong disagreement over teacher salaries.

If the city approves the partnership at a special meeting at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the contract says the teachers would lose their jobs and would have the option of re-applying and being rehired by Charter Schools USA.

Two student editors of the high school’s newspaper wrote a letter opposing the partnership, saying losing teachers will hurt the students. They said the changes will break up the family-like feeling at Pembroke Pines Charter High School.

“The education of the students is no longer of importance, money has now become the main priority and everyone is suffering because of it,” said incoming seniors Victoria Alvarez and Melissa Sullivan.

Carney points out that Charter Schools USA has “contributed $215,950 to the Florida Republican Party and to groups that support choice in education, including the Florida Federation for Children.” Charter Schools USA  willingness to sneak in and pick off a handful of schools in Broward county should emerge as a cautionary tale for Floridians. They are now politically positioned with increased access and the ability to cut last-minute, backroom deals like they did last week in Pembroke Pines.

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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3 Responses to Charter Schools USA Fails in Last Minute Attempt to Poach Seven Broward Schools

  1. When will the pendulum swing back and some rational and smart citizens wake up and see what is really going on? CSUSA has moved steadily to take over more and more schools and turn them into cash cows for themselves. You bet the quality of teachers will go down. They pay teachers way under the county scale and therefore recruit very inexperienced teachers, or public school rejects. A few quality teachers sign on believing the “student’s first” philosophy, then find out it was the classic bait and switch and walk. Has anyone every researched the turnover rate at their schools? In Duval County they have a school with just four teachers left from the original 62 hired three years ago.

  2. Ken McCard says:

    Public schools won’t even try to get their act together without some competition. I’ve been there and I know how they operate: for what’s in the best interest of the staff, not the students.

  3. Anti-Tallahassee says:

    Ken McCard, You are ignorant about how a successful school works. In a successful school, the interests of everyone are balanced. In a private charter school, the interests of the students and teachers are secondary to the profits of the charter. The administrators in a charter school are agents for a private, for profit entity. In that structure, the administrators will put the students and teachers in line behind the profits and his/her BONUS. Even when a charter is “non-profit”, there is a lot of personal gain for the management/administrative team. Private charters are a terrible concept for students, their families, and the communities they infest. If a public school is poorly run, it is an administrative problem, and blaming teachers is stupid.

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