The state Board of Education rejected appeals Tuesday from three virtual charter schools that wanted to open in Miami-Dade.
At its meeting in Fort Lauderdale, the board upheld the previous decision by the Miami-Dade School Board to reject their applications and followed the recommendation by the charter school appeal commission to deny the appeals.
“Our students do deserve a solid virtual charter option. These are not it,” said Mindy McNichols, an assistant Miami-Dade school district attorney.
She argued that the virtual charter school applicants -- Mater Virtual Charter School, Mater Virtual Academy Charter Middle/High School and Somerset Virtual Academy Charter Middle/High -- did not meet the state’s basic legal application requirements, including a contract with a virtual content provider. All three virtual charter hopefuls work with Academica, which is the state’s largest charter school management company and is led by Fernando Zulueta.
A spokesman for the applicants, Douglas Rodriguez, said they had an unsigned contract with K12 Florida.
“I ask the board today to take into account that not having a signature on a contract should not be sufficient cause to deny the children of Miami-Dade of such a wonderful provider,” said Rodriguez, principal at Doral Academy, another Academica-managed charter.
There was little discussion by the board on the issue. All board members voted to reject the appeals, except for John Padget.
Rodriguez said the virtual charter schools “will certainly be submitting new applications.”
The board’s move comes on the heels of a decision by an appeals court to reverse the state Board of Education’s decision on a different charter school, Rise Academy. In that case, the board went against both the district and the charter school commission’s stance to close the school and gave it the option to reopen. It never did.
McNichols noted that case during discussion.
“You can’t just ignore the school board’s decision … or the recommendation from the balanced charter school appeal commission,” she said.
The Miami-Dade School Board had rejected the initial applications in January.
They were among the first applications Miami-Dade considered under a new state law that allows virtual charter schools. The schools have no building and offer full-time, web-based courses.
In other business, the board:
reviewed ideas for how to expand digital learning across the state, including strategies like a statewide Bring Your Own Device policy, which is already in the works in Miami-Dade. The board is expected to vote on ways to expand digital learning at its October meeting.
approved general budget guidelines for the upcoming fiscal year. Several board members eyed the cost of performance pay for teachers on the horizon. The overhaul of how teachers are evaluated and paid will be complete in 2014-15. But the law that requires performance pay did not detail how it would be funded. State education administrators told the state board that currently, the cost will fall on district budgets. Padget recommended freezing class size at 2011-12 levels and consider using the savings for incentive pay for the most highly effective teachers. John Newman, interim chief of staff for the department of education, said it’s not clear how much it will cost, depending on how many teachers opt for performance pay, how teachers score and other factors. The bonus pay for teachers rated highly effective must be at least as much as the highest raise available to teachers on the tenure track, under state law known as Senate Bill 736. In Miami-Dade, that currently is a 19.6 percent raise, worth about $10,000. In Broward, it is $9,300.
Kathleen Shanahan, chairwoman of the board, raised the issue at the board’s budget workshop Monday. “Across the state there’s a lot of questioning/concern from the teachers’ perspective. We keep speaking about pay for performance, pay for performance but there’s no pay on the salary side of the allocation,” she said.
Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie had a similar concern. “It’s going to be really hard to fulfill our promise of performance pay when we don’t actually have the pay for the performance,” he said.