Experiences of Other States Show Need to Watch Charters Closely

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly might well be the description of charter schools in Florida. But according to this exhaustive report by the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, the Bad and the Ugly may be much more obvious than the Good.

According to the newspaper, in the past five years, 56 charter schools in South Florida have closed because of mismanagement and/or other issues, and that “a handful” of them “owe a total of at least $1 million in public education money to local school districts” but because districts have a hard time documenting spending, the amount could be much higher.

Other issues highlighted include:

Unchecked charter-school operators are exploiting South Florida’s public school system, collecting taxpayer dollars for schools that quickly shut down.

A recent spate of charter-school closings illustrates weaknesses in state law: virtually anyone can open or run a charter school and spend public education money with near impunity, a Sun Sentinel investigation found.

Florida requires local school districts to oversee charter schools but gives them limited power to intervene when cash is mismanaged or students are deprived of basic supplies — even classrooms.

Once schools close, the newspaper found, district struggle to retrieve public money not spent on students.

There are certainly good charter schools. I have talked to Florida residents who rave about what they usually call “mom and pop” charters, schools that have been opened by local educators in communities. However, this praise seldom carries over to the so-called franchise charters that are part of a chain of schools operated to make money more than anything else.

Ohio charters have gained a lot of attention, the vast majority of which is negative. Here is one such report from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Information such as this, and the Florida report, point out the need to be vigilant as Alabama gets into the charter school business.

 

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