Influencers Opinion

Florida Influencers: The good and the bad about Florida’s charter schools

Influencers

This election year, the Miami Herald, the Bradenton Herald and el Nuevo Herald are driving a conversation on the important issues facing our state. We’ve assembled a panel of 50 influential Floridians to offer their views.

In the latest survey of the Florida Influencers, the state’s most prominent leaders across the political and policy spectrum described the ways charter schools have impacted public education in Florida.

Here are more of their responses, which were published Sunday:

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“As with other publicly funded schools, there is a range of quality in charter schools, as well. Data indicates that high quality charter school networks — KIPP or Uncommon, to name two — are effective in closing the education and performance gap for children of economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Good, well-managed charter schools should be expanded, but with proper transparency and oversight to ensure high standards of educational achievement.’’

Jacob Solomon, President and CEO, <QR>

Greater Miami Jewish

Federation<QR>

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“Charter schools are basically a good idea that’s been distorted and, in the worst instances, perverted. Attempting to give poor, minority kids access to schools that are better than the terrible ones close to home is a worthy goal. It was also reasonable that the state’s per pupil funding go the charter school operator as long as the operator provided a building that met all the standard school criteria. Somehow, the Legislature took this formula and twisted like a pretzel so that for-profit charter school operators were getting not only the standard per-pupil money, but also millions for capital costs. In other words, taxpayers paid for school buildings they didn’t own. The final indignity was appropriating $140 million for charters called “schools of hope.” All this happened while conventional public schools were — at least in South Florida — showing exponential improvement. And innovative school districts were creating a variety of magnet and other specialized schools to provide meaningful alternatives.’’

Michael Putney,<QR>

senior political reporter,<QR>

WPLG- Channel 10<QR>

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“As a product of a public school education, I am well aware of the value and opportunities offered throughout the public school system. While much has changed since I was in school, one thing remains the same — public schools are federally mandated to be created equal regardless of race, nationality, gender, religion, special needs or financial standing. In Miami-Dade, our travel and tourism industry benefits from a partnership with Miami-Dade Public Schools’ Academy of Hospitality and Tourism. The academy prepares students for post-secondary education in hospitality and tourism-related majors, as well as other courses of study that demand a strong academic foundation. Parents want choices, and magnet schools offer a wealth and variety of options. A well-funded and administered public school system can yield enviable results. In 2018, Miami-Dade Public School district made history by achieving for the first time a district-wide A grade for the 2017-18 school year, the result of Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ laser-focused leadership. Public schools throughout the state need legislators to adequately fund public schools. Funding charter schools should not come at the expense of public schools.’’

Bill Talbert,<QR>

President and CEO,<QR>

Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau<QR>

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“Charter schools serve an important role in the educational fabric of our state. While they often fill gaps in equal access, efficacy, achievement and opportunity, any expansion of charter schools must be balanced with ensuring the existing public school system is adequately resourced and with a holistic approach that incentives inter-institutional collaboration. After all, we ought not lose sight of the role of both public and charter schools alike: to educate all of our youth and empower them with the values, skills, and experience to become active participants in society.’’

Leigh-Ann Buchanan, <QR>

executive director, <QR>

Venture Café Miami <QR>

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“Charter schools are an answer to the failure of some school systems. We can’t condemn our children because of an agenda to protect what does not work.”

Mike Fernandez, <QR>

chairman, <QR>

MBF Healthcare Partners <QR>

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“Charter schools empower parents with school choice and can also be hubs of experiential learning and innovation. However, public school funding and transforming the current delivery of education should remain a top priority, and the expansion of charter schools should be balanced against prioritizing public school funding.’’

Fabiola Fleuranvil,<QR>

CEO Blueprint Creative Group<QR>

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“Florida has long suffered from a less than stellar reputation for K-12 education. It is a common point of concern for businesses seeking to establish operations here. While we have taken many steps to enhance educational offerings and results, there are still a significant number of “D” and “F” grade schools throughout the state. With that in mind, last session the legislature passed HB 7069 establishing Schools of Hope to provide students in areas of persistently-low performing schools with a high-quality education option coupled with stringent accountability requirements. We must provide the environment to support high-quality educational options because if existing schools are in a persistent low-performance state, then local control is not working. Our children deserve our best efforts and creativity to provide the education necessary for them to succeed and thrive.’’

Rhea Law, chair,<QR>

Florida offices, <QR>

Buchanan Ingersoll &

Rooney,

Tampa<QR>

“Charter schools were first intended to be different from neighborhood public schools…a place for innovation that we could learn from and replicate. Today they are just the same as neighborhood public schools without the same regulations and drain precious resources from our neighborhood public schools.

There should be a moratorium on charter schools until research can prove they are effective and needed in addition to fully fund neighborhood schools.’’

Joanne McCall, President, <QR>

Florida Education

Association,<QR>

Tallahassee<QR>

“Prior to charter schools, there were too many underperforming public schools in our state, primarily in our underserved communities. Grading schools (accountability) and providing options for parents (charter schools ) gave hope to many.

Now, there will always be competition for dollars and control between school boards and charter schools. The teachers union is also a powerful stakeholder who’s lost a total grip through the advent of charter schools. Tension, fights have increased but a better outcome is worth the aggravation.’’

Al Cardenas, <QR>

senior partner, <QR>

Squire Patton Boggs<QR>

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