Florida district moves to shutter 3 charter schools, in latest closure push

Jan. 24, 2013: A first grade class of 30 children waits to enter a classroom at the Willow Glenn Elementary School in San Jose, Calif.

Jan. 24, 2013: A first grade class of 30 children waits to enter a classroom at the Willow Glenn Elementary School in San Jose, Calif.  (AP)

A Florida district that has seen a dozen charter schools close in the past two years is moving toward shutting down three more, in the latest move against charter schools at the local level. 

The Broward County School Board voted Monday to issue two charter schools, The Obama Academy for Boys and the Red Shoe Charter School for Girls, a notice of intent to terminate their charters over breach of contract. The board said the reason for the terminations was the schools were not operating out of their approved location, which they shared, and they did not have the proper permits for their current facility.

When asked to provide documentation of the unapproved facility, the board notes, the schools could only provide a certificate of occupancy for a day care facility, not an educational institution. Additionally, the board members said the school was violating state occupancy codes.

However, the founder of the first two schools, Corey Alston, a former city manager of South Bay, Fla., told the Miami Herald he believes the district is focusing on a “minor semantic issue” with the schools’ permit. Alston said he tried to get the board to delay the vote, and plans to provide proper documentation for the schools before a 90-day response period is up. 

Alston told the Miami Herald he would not comment on speculation the closure was political.

Charter schools have been thrust into the limelight after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made the controversial decision to rescind an agreement for the city to share space with several public charter schools. De Blasio is an open critic of charter schools who enjoys strong support from the United Federation of Teachers.

De Blasio’s decision has been meant with outcry and protest from many of the educators, children and parents whose schools will be closed.

In Florida, the Broward County board is required to give the charter schools 90 days’ notice before they approve the charter termination, and the schools have 14 days after that notice to request a hearing to appeal their case.

A third charter school, RISE Academy, also received notification its charter was being terminated because it received two “F” grades in a four-year period.

The three schools are part of what is becoming a trend for the district, as that would make 15 charter schools that have closed over the past two years.

A spokeswoman for the district tells the reasons for the closures vary, and include a lack of appropriate facilities, financial issues, decreasing enrollment and poor academic performance.

Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie told the Sun Sentinel the charter schools are suffering from a quality control problem, and he is working on changes that will better vet them.

Charter schools receive taxpayer funds for operating expenses, but are independently managed. They do not get public money to build or lease their own facilities.