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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida League of Women Voters blasts charter school movement

Following a year of research, the Florida League of Women Voters issued a report this week that's highly critical of the state's charter school movement. Education "reform" critics, such as historian Diane Ravitch and AFT president Randi Weingarten, have begun passing around the document, calling it a "bombshell."

In it, the League observes that Florida charters have a 20 percent closure rate because of financial problems or poor academic performance. Charter proponents have seen this as a good thing, as it weeds out the bad actors, and argue that the same should occur for traditional public schools. The League isn't convinced.

The report notes that many state officials with power over charter schools also have vested interests in charters, including lawmakers Rep. Erik Fresen and Sen. John Legg. These political leaders have acknowledged their ties, but argued they have no legal conflict of interest.

The League also suggests that some charters run by for-profit management firms screen students and then drop those who are not successful. Leaders of the McKeel charter schools in Lakeland told the Ledger in 2010 that they could dismiss students who did not meet academic requirements.

"Charter schools could fill a niche in Florida’s educational spectrum, but for many, their biggest contribution may be to corporate bottom lines," League president Deirdre Macnab said in a news release.

The group recommends actions such as limiting charter schools to fill unmet needs in local districts -- primarily focusing on low-income families, and creating stronger local oversight of charters.

Rebuttals to the League of Women Voters report have not yet begun. They probably will soon. Read the full report here.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2014 9:49am]


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