The fortunes of three struggling Pinellas schools, along with their students and teachers, will soon rest with a private company as the reality of a terribly flawed new state education edict hits home.
Around this time last year, the Republican-led Florida Legislature pushed thorough HB 7069. Gov. Rick Scott ignored pleas to veto it and signed it into law. So now Fairmount Park and Lakewood elementary schools and Azalea Middle School will be run by Learning Sciences International this fall. The schools earned three consecutive poor letter grades from the state, triggering a provision in the new law that requires districts to choose from three bad options: reassign students elsewhere, reopen the school as a charter or contract with an outside entity to run it. It’s essentially a vote of no-confidence in local districts and a forced privatization of public schools.
Pinellas School Board members reluctantly voted this week to contract with LSI to run Fairmount Park, Lakewood and Azalea. Hillsborough leaders are facing a similar choice over seven struggling schools. They have no real choice. This is essentially a hostile private takeover of local public schools forced on local school boards by the Legislature and paid for by taxpayers. It may have been a philosophical debate in Tallahassee last year, but it will have real consequences this fall in Tampa Bay.