Will competing Florida charter school groups speak with one voice?
The Florida Charter School Alliance announced its formal launch this week, a month after its soft opening in name and website only. Its goals, according to its press release, are to support existing charter schools, bring new "high quality" charter schools to all Florida communities and advocate for more charter school funding.
Already, the question being raised is, Does the state need another voice backing charters?
It's not as if the leaders of the Alliance -- Jim Horne, Patricia Levesque, John Kirtley, and others -- don't have the ears of lawmakers as it stands. And Michael Kooi, formerly of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, heads up the Department of Education's school choice office.
And don't forget the FCPCS. Around for more than a decade, it's been the leading charter school advocate in the state for quite some time. Leaders there were taken aback to discover that the Walton Foundation had pumped nearly $1 million into this potentially competing organization.
"My concern is for the kids and the schools that the message might be convoluted," FCPCS spokeswoman Lynn Norman-Teck told the Gradebook.
She noted that when they first met, Alliance officials told Consortium leaders that their missions would be different, with the Alliance focused on advocacy and the Consortium on support. Soon after, charter schools started getting offers of support from the Alliance, Norman-Teck said.
"I hope at least we can all talk and make sure there's one message instead of two," she said. "We'll see how their agenda differs from ours. We're just going to keep on doing what we're doing."