Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Approve those charter schools, Florida review panel says

The Palm Beach County School Board lost its court battle in 2017 challenging the state's authority to overturn its denial of a charter school application.

Now the board is poised to see its rejection of two charters overturned.

Applicants to open Renaissance Charter High School and South Palm Beach Charter School have again appealed the local decision to the Florida Board of Education, this time with the state Supreme Court's ruling to back it up.

Related: Florida Supreme Court tosses Palm Beach case on charter school approvals

The state Charter Schools Appeal Commission has recommended permitting the schools, suggesting the district did not have good cause to turn them down.

And Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is advising the State Board to accept the appeal commission's recommendation.

"The School Board's determination must be based on good cause," Stewart wrote in her memo to the board, which meets July 18 to consider the issues.

See the full action files on Renaissance and South Palm Beach on the board online agenda.

The Palm Beach School Board has been among the most active in Florida to fight for local control of the charter school process. It decided nearly five years ago to stop approving charters that do not meet a specific niche need — particularly those operated by for-profit entities — and has gone to court to preserve what it sees as its powers outlined in the state constitution.

Broward-based Charter Schools USA, which would operate Renaissance Charter High, has led the effort to force the district to allow more charters.

Currently, 47 charter schools operate in Palm Beach County, including six run by Renaissance.

During deliberations of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, Stewart pointed to the current system, which Palm Beach has fought, as a reason the state does not need to approve a proposed constitutional amendment allowing a state charter school authorizer.

That provision is now a part of Amendment 8, which goes to voters in November.

Stewart noted during debate in March that Florida has more charter schools than almost any other state, serving about 200,000 students. Applicants that are rejected by a school board can appeal to the state and win approval through that process, as the two Palm Beach proposals are about to do.

"Florida has been a leader," she said at the time.

Related coverage: Proposal to allow a state charter school authorizer advances in Florida Constitution Revision Commission

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