Two Florida appeals courts recently decided two cases involving the same charter school operator and came to the same conclusion: There are “deficiencies” in the state’s charter school statutes.
The courts indicated that when the state Board of Education overrules school boards on charter school applications, it should be required to spell out its reasoning in greater detail. They also found other “shortcomings” in the state’s standards for high-performing charter school appeals.
The state board can hear appeals from charter schools whose applications are rejected by local school boards. It often overturns their decisions, especially in cases involving “high-performing” charters like Renaissance Charter School, Inc., which was rebuffed in two separate efforts to bring its South Florida schools to Central Florida.
State law only allows high-performing charter schools to replicate once per year. If a school board rejects a high-performing charter’s application to replicate one of its schools, the school board has to show “clear and convincing” evidence the application failed to meet certain standards spelled out in state law.
In the two recent cases, one in Seminole County and one in Polk, the state board decided the districts did not prove their case. The districts disagreed, and appealed the cases to state courts. Three-judge panels for the Fifth and Second Courts of Appeals both sided with the districts and overturned the state board’s decisions. And in both rulings, the latest of which was issued earlier this month, the courts criticized the state laws that spell out the process for charter school appeals.
The two cases, both decided 3-0, were broadly similar.