Charter Schools USA’s Predictable Rhetoric Over Hillsborough Board Decision

The editors of the Tampa Bay Times write:

…the board was right to follow the staff’s recommendation to reject the plan, because the sponsors were inconsistent about the leadership structure. In its application, the foundation said a local governing council of base leaders, parents and others would have “direct oversight” of the school, including “authority to oversee the school’s finances” with the foundation providing “broader strategic direction.” But the application blurred the lines of authority. In recent days, sponsors made matters worse by insisting the local council was — contrary to the application — only advisory in nature

To hold any charter accountable, the school district needs to know who is in charge and the lines of authority. This lack of focus doesn’t serve either side at the start of what would be a long-term relationship. Board members sent the right message by underscoring their concerns while also acknowledging that a charter might serve the unique needs of MacDill parents, who are often frequently rotated in and out of assignments, leaving them without the community support they could find more easily on base. The concept for a charter school at MacDill makes sense, but this proposal falls short.

This is a Charter Schools USA production and superintendent MaryEllen Elia and the board called them on it. Why they would want to hide behind one of their lobbying arms to apply is a mystery. Perhaps it’s because CSUSA has a poor record in the district already. Predictably, the charter school flacks are taking the low road and are demonizing the district. Sherri Ackerman is redifnED has this:

Richard Page, vice present of development  for Charter Schools USA, said the groups already talked about the governing setup last month, and that it’s similar to ones used by other charter schools throughout the state.

“We are puzzled by the timing and the process when we felt like it was clear,” Page told redefinED last week.

Both sides met Monday morning to discuss the district’s concerns. Elia was out-of-town, but spoke with staff later and, late Monday, upheld the original recommendation of denial.

“Clearly Hillsborough County district staff is not interested in helping military families at MacDill Air Force Base by providing a charter school option for students on base,” Ken Haiko, chairman of the Florida Charter Educational Foundation, said later in an email to redefinED. “The concerns provided in our meeting and the documents posted online are ludicrous and demonstrate the district’s weak arguments against the charter.”

The proposal now goes before the school board, which in Florida is the authorizer of charter schools in its district. If the board denies the application, organizers vow they will appeal to the state Board of Education.

We’ve seen this game before. Jonathan Hage’s CSUSA gets rejected by a school district and he appeals to a state board packed with his cronies. Local board gets overruled. Haiko may have taken his rhetoric a little too far in criticizing Elia, though, in saying she was making it a personal turf war. Elia is on the inside as it is her district which participated in the Gates Foundation pilot study on teacher evaluations. She was also on Rick Scott’s education transition team.  As a school board member said last year, Hage is “looking to stockpie charter schools.” He’ll be going to the mat to create this market with military installation schools.


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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