State overturns local board, allows charter school to be built


State officials gave a new charter school permission Wednesday to set up shop west of Delray Beach, overuling the Palm Beach County School Board’s attempt to block the school from opening its doors.

The Florida Board of Education voted unanimously to grant the South Palm Beach Charter School’s appeal to be allowed to open, four months after county school board members sought to prevent its opening with the novel argument that its plans were not sufficiently “innovative.”

School board members are worried about increased competition from charter schools, which are projected to enroll about 24,000 of the county’s 185,000 public school students next year. The emptying-out of many traditional, district-run schools is causing financial strains on the school system, educators say.

But school boards can only deny charter schools’ applications if they fail to meet the criteria set out in state law. In this case, a state appeal panel concluded that the school board “did not have good cause to determine that the applicant failed to meet the requirements.”

Members of the state Board of Education overruled the school board without discussion, just moments after a lawyer for the charter school’s management company, Charter Schools USA, accused the school board of having “gone rogue.”

“The school board simply denied the application because it was tired of losing money to charter schools and didn’t want to approve any more charter schools operated by Charter Schools USA,” said Stephanie Alexander, a lawyer representing the company. Charter Schools USA currently operates six schools in Palm Beach County.

Given the delays in its application, its unlikely that the school could open before August 2016, said Jim Pegg, head of the school district’s charter school office.

At the Board of Education’s meeting in Tallahassee Wednesday, a school board attorney argued that board members’ Dec. 10 decision was legally justified because, she said, the school’s application hadn’t explained how it would meet the state requirements that charter schools “shall encourage the use of innovative learning methods.” It marked the first time the school board had raised the issue of innovation to deny a charter school application.

“Its denial was based on the lack of innovative learning methods,” attorney Laura Pincus said.

The state’s reversal of the school board’s decision was not unexpected. During the December meeting when board members decided to reject the charter school over the superintendent’s recommendation, some board members suggested they were likely to be overruled. Board member Debra Robinson characterized the ‘no’ vote, and others before it, as “an act of civil disobedience.”

Reacting to Wednesday’s decision, School Board Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri said he would urge fellow board members to appeal the decision in court, arguing that the school board “lawfully exercized its constitutional authority in denying this charter.”

“This charter school chain operates schools which do not meet (charter schools’) intent and purpose, but are operated solely as a profit-making enterprise using taxpayer dollars,” he said in a statement. “Perhaps they should call them McCharter Schools since they want to build them on every corner.”

Also Wednesday, the Board of Education upheld the school board’s decision to reject another charter school: Lake Worth Classical Academy, which proposed to teacher Latin and Greek language and literary classics.

The school board had determined the school’s plan was not financially viable, in part because it depended on winning private grants and donations. The school’s managers appealed, but the board of education unanimously vote to reject the appeal.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Original 'Kiss Me, Kate' star Patricia Morison dead at 103
Original 'Kiss Me, Kate' star Patricia Morison dead at 103

Patricia Morison, who played the shrewish lead role in the 1948 Cole Porter Broadway musical “Kiss Me, Kate,” died Sunday, Variety reported. She was 103.  Morison also appeared on stage with Yul Brynner in “The King and I” and starred in films such as “The Song of Bernadette.” She also appeared as Basil...
Wellington deals with ‘exceptional’ rainfall, water levels expected to rise
Wellington deals with ‘exceptional’ rainfall, water levels expected to rise

As rain continues to pound Palm Beach County, Wellington is working to mitigate the effects as days of storms add up.  The village received more than 4 inches of rain from Saturday afternoon through Sunday, Wellington said in a news release. “The village has received an exceptional amount of rainfall over the last four weeks,&rdquo...
LATEST: Man charged in Boynton drive-by that injures teen gets $20,000 bond
LATEST: Man charged in Boynton drive-by that injures teen gets $20,000 bond

An 18-year-old boy who allegedly shot and injured a teen in Boynton Beach Wednesday night was given a $20,000 bond by a Palm Beach County Court judge Saturday morning. Cleevens Altiner was arrested Friday and faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill and aggravated battery with a firearm. The judge ordered a $10...
Accused Santa Fe shooter won't get death penalty -- and could get paroled someday 
Accused Santa Fe shooter won't get death penalty -- and could get paroled someday 

Even though Dimitrios Pagourtzis was charged as an adult in the mass shooting at a southeastern Texas high school Friday, he will not face the death penalty and could even be eligible for parole someday, the Houston Chronicle reported. Pagourtzis, 17, a high school junior, admitted to the shootings that killed 10 and wounded 13, according to court...
Trump demands Justice Department probe claims of spying on his 2016 campaign
Trump demands Justice Department probe claims of spying on his 2016 campaign

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he will demand that the Justice Department investigate whether it or the FBI spied on his 2016 presidential campaign for political reasons, CNN reported. "I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated...
More Stories