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Hillsborough denied a charter school, and the state agreed — a rarity

A small school focused on struggling students did not pass muster with the school district or the State Board of Education.
The Hillsborough County school district and state officials were in agreement Wednesday about denying a charter school application, which doesn't happen often.
The Hillsborough County school district and state officials were in agreement Wednesday about denying a charter school application, which doesn't happen often. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Feb. 9

In what might be considered a rare occurrence, the State Board of Education on Wednesday upheld the Hillsborough County school district’s decision to stop a new charter school from opening.

Often when disputes happen, the School Board tries to block a charter school, only to be overruled by state officials who look favorably upon the privately managed, publicly funded schools as vehicles of choice.

This time, both the Hillsborough administration and School Board wanted to say no to Hillsborough County Acceleration Academy, a small school that would have served students who dropped out of high school or were in danger of dropping out.

The district turned down the proposal for reasons related to both the educational program and the fiscal plan. An appeal followed and the state’s Charter School Appeal Commission found that, while the educational plan was acceptable, the business plan was not. The state commission nevertheless supported Hillsborough’s decision.

Next stop: the State Board of Education.

At the board’s meeting Wednesday in Tallahassee, an attorney for the proposed school tried to win points by recalling a series of Hillsborough board votes on June 15 to close four other charter schools. That decision landed the district in hot water with education commissioner Richard Corcoran, who accused Hillsborough of violating state law. Under threat of state sanctions, the Hillsborough board reversed those four votes and the schools were allowed to remain open.

Corcoran and State Board members said at the time that Hillsborough leaders moved against the four schools arbitrarily because they were troubled that the district loses more than $250 million each year to charter schools.

The vote against Acceleration Academy happened at the same meeting in June.

“The School Board obviously had gone rogue at the time, to satisfy their own budgetary failures,” said attorney Thomas Sternberg.

Despite that characterization, the State Board took a quick vote to uphold the Hillsborough decision.

The applicant can apply again for the next school year.

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