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.