Imagine you enrolled your child in a local charter school only to have that school close its doors with little or no warning just a few months later. Thanks to a stunning lack of basic oversight under Gov. Scott and his allies in the legislature, fiscal mismanagement and sudden closings have been the story at far too many charter schools. It’s Florida’s children who are paying the price, and that’s why we all need to demand a change.
Last week, a grand jury indicted Newpoint Education Partners along with three other vendors who manage charter schools throughout the state for grand theft, money laundering, and aggravated white collar crime1. Unfortunately, this kind of incident is increasingly common2. Stories of charter school abuse are numerous, from administrators cashing in big after the charter has closed3 to sudden teacher layoffs4. Charter schools are part of Florida’s public school system and receive taxpayer dollars. As long as that’s the case, these schools need much stronger oversight, specifically:
All public dollars that go to charter schools should be transparent. Every dollar spent, including by charter management companies, should be reported regularly and be available for review by the public. Currently, charters are required to file regular financial reports, but often money flows to management companies and it’s unclear how those funds are really used.
Applicants who want to open a charter school should be subject to a background check and financial disclosure. Applicants should also be required to discuss any previous experience in education or management. Currently, Florida law does not limit who can open a charter school.
Locally elected school boards should have the final authority to approve or reject charter applications for schools in their community. Currently, the state board of education, whose members are appointed by the governor, have the final say and can ignore the decision of a local school board.
Most charter schools serve Florida students without the kind of mismanagement and scandal that have dominated headlines for years. Nonetheless, the kind of abuses we’ve seen cry out for reform. Thanks for all you do to defend and strengthen Florida's public schools.
Mark and the rest of the Progress Florida team
1“Florida grand jury indicts charter school management company.” Lakeland Ledger, 5/6/16.
2“Florida’s charter schools: unsupervised.” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 5/6/16.
3“Charter school principal gets $519,453 payout (in taxpayer money).” Orlando Sentinel, 10/26/12.
4”Sunrise charter school mass-fires teachers.” WPLG, 10/5/15.