Two troubled Miami-Dade charter schools have had their funding cut off by the school district an extraordinary measure that could threaten the schools ability to survive.
The school district is withholding more than $185,000 from the Academy of Arts & Minds charter school in Coconut Grove because the school has failed to provide some services for children with special needs a violation of state and federal law. Last month, the school, which has 460 students, was also slapped for illegally charging fees to students for basic classes.
The district also withheld $79,000 from the Balere Language Academy in South Miami Heights over questions about the schools finances and staff. Last year, the school district found that the school, which now has 85 students, was in a deteriorating financial condition, requiring the school to draft a plan for recovery.
Cutting off the schools funding is a good way to kill it, even though its showing signs of recovery, said Marlon Hill, an attorney for Balere. Its overbearing.
Charter schools receive the bulk of their income in monthly payments from the school district based on the number of students enrolled. School districts monitor the charter schools to ensure that they comply with their charters, or contracts, which govern how the schools operate.
Without these monthly payments, the charter schools will likely struggle to keep the doors open, said Lynn Norman Teck, a spokeswoman for the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, a lobbying group and membership association. She said some Florida charter schools have had compliance issues in the past, but continued receiving their monthly checks.
The consortium wants its member schools to do things right, she said. But we dont feel that funds should be withheld.
School district officials said it was a necessary move, particularly in the case of Arts & Minds.
The Academy of Arts & Minds has violated federal and state law and materially breached the charter school contract with the School Board by repeated failure to provide services to special education students, the school systems charter school administrator, Tiffanie Pauline, wrote in a letter to the school.
District officials said they would likely disburse the funds to the schools when they are in full compliance.
The schools founder and landlord, Manuel Alonso-Poch did not return calls from The Miami Herald, nor did governing board spokeswoman Cecilia Holloman.
Both Balere and Arts & Minds were buckling under financial strains even before the school districts actions this month, records show.
Balere is facing a foreclosure lawsuit on its school building, and the school has about $136,000 in outstanding debts, including $99,000 owed to a previous landlord.
Last month, Balere was also under investigation after advertisements surfaced indicating that the school was being used as an adult-themed nightclub on the weekends. The schools principal, Rocka Malik, has denied that the school was doubling as a club though a phone number on the ads comes back to her husbands business.
The latest controversy arose in early October, when the school district asked Balere for copies of the schools audited financials and supporting documentation, citing serious concerns as to the completeness and validity of the information provided. District officials said the school had missed the annual deadline for submitting the information a breach of its contract.