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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Did the Pasco School Board jump the gun on its charter school appeal?



Pasco County school district officials were nowhere near Tallahassee when the Florida Board of Education met Tuesday, even though Pasco had a charter school appeal on the State Board's agenda.

Two weeks earlier, the Pasco School Board had voted to drop its effort to keep Florida Virtual Academy from opening in the county, despite members' clear concerns that the operator had dubious credentials. The Florida Charter School Appeal Commission already had recommended overturning the School Board's charter denial, members reasoned, so continuing the fight appeared futile.

"To take it to the next level would have spent precious dollars with the outcome almost assured of being the same," chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong told the Gradebook.

Instead, the School Board instructed its lawyer to tell Florida Virtual Academy it had approved its charter, and that contract talks should begin. No one in the district paid the State Board meeting any heed.

It appears, though, that had the district stuck to its guns, it might have won a reprieve.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that the applicant decided to drop its appeals to open charter schools in Orange, Seminole and Marion counties -- three others that didn't back away from the fight to keep the group out of their counties:

"Brady Cobb, a lawyer representing Florida Virtual Schools, also known as Florida Virtual Academy, said that even if his client won, the school districts' right to appeal likely would have pushed contract negotiations past the start of school in August.

"Instead, they will reapply next year, he said. The charter schools are not associated with Florida Virtual School, the state's long-standing, Internet-based public school."

Asked whether the School Board acted too hastily, Armstrong said she doubted it. The district had rejected the charter once before, she said, and the chance of winning another appeal was low.

"We certainly are going to work very strongly on the contract" to deal with district concerns about the applicant, she added. "It's not a foregone conclusion that they are going to be opening up next year."

Armstrong said she also planned to ask lawmakers to give school districts more local control over the criteria to approve charter schools that operate under district oversight.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 9:41am]


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