by Melissa Morris, NCFCLC Secretary
During the July executive board meeting and the August general body meeting, the North Central Florida Central Labor Council (NCFCLC) unanimously voted to support Parents Against Corporate Takeover (PACT) in their efforts to campaign against Charter School USA coming into Alachua County. The NCFCLC represents union members from twelve different Central Florida counties.
On June 15th of this year House Bill 7069 was signed by Governor Scott with an effective date of July 1, 2017. This bill mandates that public schools share local millage revenue with local charter schools, regardless of public or private status. Included in this bill was language for “Schools of Hope” to be opened in areas of persistently low performing schools. It also allows for these Schools of Hope to be able to apply to the state for assistance in funding the construction of the new buildings. These provisions were put in place to help students in low performing areas, yet the proposed charter school would be built in an area of Gainesville where there are two elementary schools that are historically A schools.
While reviewing Charter School USA’s testing data from the Department of Education’s website I found that there were schools with grades of As and Bs, but there were also schools that had grades of Cs and Ds. This company cannot guarantee that they have a better system of education that traditional public schools when they have low performing schools here in the state of Florida.
Another concern discussed by members was that while charter schools have open enrollment procedures and standard application process, it does not mean that the schools have to take every student that applies, or even keep students for the entire year. Unlike the public schools, charter schools are not required to provide special education services to students. If a student requires special services while attending a charter school, parents have to find services in a private setting. If parents are unhappy with the educational services, or the lack thereof, the parents are frequently encouraged to take their child to another school where services can be provided. In addition, students who become excessive behavior problems can be removed from the schools. By the time state testing arrives they have the potential to weed out students that would drop the overall school grade.
If Charter School USA is approved to open the school in southwest Gainesville, it would have a capacity to house over 1,000 students from kindergarten through 8th grade. Between the state funding per child and the capital outlay money that must be shared with the charter, the School Board of Alachua County would lose just over $78 million over the course of 10 years.
Through Opportunity Scholars the School Board of Alachua County already provides opportunity for students at failing schools to go to schools that are performing at a passing level. In addition to the Opportunity Scholars parents can exercise school choice through applying for zoning exemptions and magnet programs. It is in the best interest of the students of Alachua County to keep the funding in the traditional public schools and away from a for-profit educational company.
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