From Tampa Bay Times reporter Marlene Skokol:
TAMPA — Woodmont Charter School, an F-rated elementary and middle school, is advertising on television for more students.
The 30-second cable spot shows children listening attentively, raising their hands, working on computers and romping through the playground.
But it doesn’t mention the school’s grade.
“I’m not going to advertise that Woodmont got an F,” said Colleen Reynolds, spokeswoman for Charter Schools USA, which manages the school. “But I don’t think we overhype it either.”
The ad, nevertheless, is just the type of thing that stirs up critics of charter schools, which use tax dollars but are run independently of government districts.
“The state goes out of its way, as it should, to inform parents of the grades and the achievement of schools,” said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, a federation of teachers unions.
“But it’s not quite a level playing field when someone can put an ad on TV, and you know it’s not going to say anything about the grade.”
Are public schools going to have to have marketing people now to counterbalance against charter school propaganda? Sokol writes that it is already happening:
The debate extends far beyond the district and state. In Pennsylvania, school districts have responded to aggressive charter advertising with billboards, television and Internet ads and cash bonuses to lure students back.
Cash bonuses? Is this where Florida is heading?
Florida charter schools have more money on hand than people realize as evidenced by the $50,000 donation from Charter Schools USA founder Jonathan Hage to Rick Scott’s PAC last fall. Scathing Purple Musings has chronicled Hage and CSUSA’s contributions here and here. Hage’s done well enough to secure over $200 million in financing since 2010.
Hage and Charter Schools USA have a war chest with which to influence elections, legislation and now, the public with misleading TV spots.