Broward School Board hurts children by rejecting $3 million grant

ANOTHER VIEWPOINT - Sun Sentinel, March 16, 2015

School Board hurting students by refusing grant for charters

It is inconceivable that a major school district such as Broward County Public Schools would have turned down a $3.3 million state grant to attract the nation’s high-performing charter school operators. But that is what happened this week, when Broward School Board members said that it was not their job to enrich its portfolio of charter schools.

As the only entity that sponsors charter schools in Broward County, that is precisely their job, and this grant would have given them a powerful tool to significantly improve educational outcomes for its most disadvantaged students.

The multimillion-dollar grant was aimed at harnessing the strengths of both charter schools and school districts to increase the number of high-quality school options for the district’s most educationally under-served children. The district submitted to the Florida Department of Education a bold and ambitious proposal to “pilot an innovative program of whole-child support in partnership with an established high-impact educational provider” that would have served the families living in the 33311 ZIP code.

The superintendent’s well thought-out proposal was aimed at achieving five worthy goals: increase high-quality educational options for students; build a complete continuum of cradle-to-career solutions; integrate programs to improve effectiveness and efficiency of educational service delivery; develop local infrastructure to scale up proven educational solutions across the district; and establish a proof point educational model that performs at high levels.

The School Board, however, only saw a plan that would bring in more charter schools that, as one board member complained, “would take our money.” Perhaps most frustrating and disappointing is the missed opportunity for students and families living in the 33311 ZIP code. Almost 40 percent of the population there earns less than $25,000 per year, and almost half of the families are led by single mothers. The academic performance in this area is the worst in Broward County, with more D and F schools than any other area in Broward County.

Broward County cited these very statistics in their application to the Department of Education in describing the urgent need for this grant.

The sudden and confusing change of heart in Broward County to reject millions of dollars to help struggling students speaks volumes about the commitment of this School Board to the very students and families that need them the most.

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Article from February 2015: Broward County District looks to charter to improve schools

Video of Broward school board workshop can be seen here. 

Robert Haag is president of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS). Established in 1999, FCPCS is the state's leading charter school advocacy and support organization with a membership of nearly 75% of all operating charter schools.  Since its inception, FCPCS has been dedicated to creating a national model of high quality, accredited public charter schools that are student-centered and performance driven.  FCPCS provides a wide array of technical support, mentoring, training, networking, and purchasing services to its membership, as well as serving as an advocate for all Florida public charter schools.