ON NOVEMBER 14, 2015 AND DECEMBER 5, 2015 A FELLOW NAMED LARRY CLOSE WROTE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR OF TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS MISLEADING THE COMMUNITY ABOUT THE INNER WORKINGS OF THE INDIAN RIVER COUNTY CHARTER SCHOOLS.
Mr. Close did a disservice to the Indian River County community by writing misleading opinion.
After Mr. Close’s first letter to Opinion Editor, Eve Samples, Gene Waddell, Chairman of the Board of Indian River Charter High School sent an email to Ms.Samples attaching a letter correcting Mr. Close’s opinions. After several weeks passed he emailed her again and she responded that the letter must have been lost in her Spam folder.
Mind you this was a direct email with an attachment. Mr. Waddell did not receive notification that the email was undeliverable. Direct emails do not go into Spam.
After further time passed Mr. Waddell send an email to Mr. Larry Reisman of the Treasure Coast Newspapers to ask for help. Mr. Waddell wanted to meet with the Editorial Board.
Mr. Reisman said he send Ms. Samples another email, copy me, and I will help move it along.
It has been three weeks since Mr. Waddell’s email to Mr. Reisman and there has been no response from either party.
Along the way somewhere Mr. Waddell was advised his letter exceeded the word limit for a letter to the editor.
It’s been almost four months that Ms. Samples has failed to communicate with Mr. Waddell; which, wouldn’t you think wouldn’t be important to the community considering last year 16 out of 160 Charter High School graduates received an Associate of Arts Degree before receiving their diploma?
Indian River Charter High School
So here’s the background on Mr. Close’s letters and why he misinformed the community.
In his letter of November 14, 2015 he wrote:
“Charter schools receive the same fixed formula funds as above but are privately operated by for-profit corporations and local groups. They have near zero oversight and accountability to the public and do not have the stringent quality control from either the state or our local elected board. (emphasis added)
Our elected board asked local voters to approve additional funding for student tech support. We voted “yes.” We knew the money would be managed with full public scrutiny to enhance our students’ education.
Charter schools refuse to submit to this oversight by our elected officials and therefore do not deserve these tax funds.” (Emphasis added)
Then on December 5, 2015 he wrote:
“Charter schools get money without sufficient oversight. (Emphasis added)
I did not propose banning charters from receiving the millions in state and local taxes — funding that is not controlled by our elected School Board.
Charter schools receive these monies with little oversight by our elected officials. (Once again, emphasis added)
Now let’s get to the truth and why Mr. Close misinformed the community, which the Press Journal had failed to report.
Image from the Center of Education Reform
First of all, it is false to state that public charter schools enjoy “near zero oversight and accountability.”
Public charter schools must follow state and federal laws and statutes governing their programs and facilities; certification for teachers, curriculum standards, class size requirements and hundred of other regulations. These include testing requirements and hundreds of other regulations, including testing requirements and hundreds of other regulations.
All five charter schools in Indian River County (IRC) provide the school district with monthly financial statements and an audit performed by a CPA firm is submitted to the District, the Florida Department of Education, state auditors and the state legislature on an annual basis.
With respect to the monies charter schools receive in state and local taxes, it is true that “operating funds” are allocated using the same formula used for traditional public schools (minus an administration fee kept by the District.)
But the charter schools receive no annual “capital” funding from the local taxpayers for facilities. If you consider all 2,200+ IRC students housed in public charter school facilities, the construction savings to the taxpayers from not receiving “capital” funding approaches $ 150 million.
Consequently, public charter schools must privately fund school construction and use precious operational funding for capital projects.
More specifically, the following are statutory requirements for Florida public charter schools:
- Public charters must be 501c3, free public schools.
- Public charter schools must undergo an annual physical financial audit and submit it to the District and the Florida Department of Education, state auditors and the state legislature on an annual basis.
- Public charter schools are exempt from local State education rules and policies, except those specifically relating to charter schools.
- Charter schools must comply with all health, safety and welfare statutes for students.
- Enrollment is open to all without regard to discrimination.
- Public charter schools must participate in all State mandated assessment programs.
- Public charter school facilities must meet all local building codes for structure and safety.
- Public charter schools cannot levy taxes or issue bonds secured by revenue.
- Public charter schools must maintain an informational website.
- Students may participate in their zoned school interscholastic sports or other activity.
- Public charter school employees may be hired on an “at-will” basis.
- All public instructional personnel must be certified.
- Class size is determined on a school wide basis, not by specific classrooms.
So Mr. Close wrote that charter schools “have near zero oversight and accountability to the public and do not have the stringent quality control from either the state or our local elected board.”
Apparently the Treasure Coast Newspapers’ Opinion Editor, Eve Samples agrees with Mr. Close, by not reporting the facts or having them reported by in a Letter to the Editor by Gene Waddell, Chairman of the Board of Indian River Charter High School.
According to Mr. Waddell, “if my letter was too long for their standards I would have shortened it.”
Next week, we will share Mr. Waddell’s recent presentation to the Taxpayers Association of Indian River County on the statistical performance of the five charter schools in IRC.