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Politics

Appeals Court Overturns State Board of Education over Indian River Charter Schools

October 4, 2017 - 4:30pm

An appeals court overturned a Florida State Board of Education decision to open up two new charter schools in Indian River County on Wednesday. 

At the crux of the 4th District Court of Appeal’s decision was the Somerset Academy charter company’s shaky financial budget, which appeals court judges called “unrealistic and untenable.”

Somerset Academy operates several charter schools in the South Florida area but the Indian River County School Board denied the company’s application for two charter schools in 2015.

Somerset Academy then approached the State Board of Education, which sided against the school board and said the company should be allowed to move forward with its charter school application process.

Somerset was in the middle of an attempt to recreate its “high-performing” schools in South Florida which serve middle and elementary-school aged students. 

No more, said appeals court judges.

In order for a charter school to be authorized, it must meet specific requirements under Florida law, meeting realistic financial checkpoints to move the school forward. 

For now, it’s back to the drawing board for Somerset Academy. 

The appeals court also found Somerset Academy was not forthright as to whether it would comply with a federal desegregation order for Indian River County schools.

This summer, the Indian River County School District filed a lawsuit in federal court to lift portions of the 1967 desegregation order, which aimed to make schools more minority-friendly by diversifying teaching staff by hiring minorities. 

Indian River County is seeking to be absolved of the order in recent years. 

"This board has taken the position that we want to move ahead," Charles Searcy, School Board chairman wrote in July. "The progress this School District has made over the last 50 years merits taking a look at."

Judges said Wednesday Somerset Academy wasn’t specific enough on how it would diversify the schools and achieve “racial balance” reflective of the local community. 

“For example, the recruitment plans submitted by Somerset failed to address the type of transportation needed to achieve diversity,” the court order read. 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

 

Comments

As is the case with most Charter Schools, the finances are not realistic or attainable due to being run by for profit corporations that place a premium on making money over education for children. It is a shell game supported by shameful politicians and their spouses (Corcoran)...

As usual, this is a gross over generalization by a charter school opponent. Only 20% of charter schools in Florida use for-profit management companies. If you would recognize the tremendous accomplishments that the other 80% of charter schools achieve while being denied the resources that are provided to other public schools, maybe you would find more friends and allies to push back against the corporate schools. The problem is that the School Districts, teachers' unions and other third parties that prosper from the monopoly of traditional Public Education do not want to let go of the money and power. That is really what the current lawsuits regarding HB 7069 are all about. Who wields the power and who makes the decisions: the Legislature or the School Boards, singularly and collectively? The School Boards are trying to flex their muscles. They believe that they are their own branch of government and no one should tell them what to do or how to do it. A great example was two years ago when the House Committee on Education, headed by Mr. Corcoran disclosed that while there were rules, regulations and limits on capital outlay expenditures from the State funded PECO money, there were no limits on how the local school boards could spend the capital outlay funds generated from local property taxes, which is actually the vast majority of capital outlay monies available to a local district. One of the subcommittees discovered that over 20% of local districts grossly over spent on new school construction while complaining about not having money for maintenance, buses, etc. Be careful when you hear a Superintendent or Board Member use the phrase "Its all for the kids." What he/she really means is, "how dare you question our decisions."

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