Palm Beach School Board files appeal over charter applications

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The Palm Beach School Board voted Wednesday to file an appeal challenging the Florida Board of Education’s decision to overturn the board’s rejection of two charter applications.

A School Board in South Florida is headed back to court, again, in its attempt to prevent two new charter schools from opening.

The Palm Beach School Board, which has been in litigation on these charter schools since 2015, voted unanimously and without debate on Wednesday to file another appeal to the Fourth District Court of Appeal. This time, it is challenging the Florida Board of Education’s decision this summer to overturn the district’s rejection of South Palm Beach Charter and Renaissance Charter High School applications.

The State Board followed the recommendation of the state Charter School Appeal Commission, which reviewed the case and decided on June 13 that the School Board did not have good cause to reject the applications.

Palm Beach previously argued that it has the right to reject the Renaissance application based on the school’s proposed budget, because the budget provides lower salaries for teachers than is offered in the district. In rejecting the South Palm Beach application, Palm Beach argued the school failed to meet the statutory requirements for using a strong innovation model.

This is not the first time the School Board has been at odds with the state board. In 2017, Palm Beach challenged the authority of the State Board to reverse School Board denials of charter applications. But the Florida Supreme Court tossed out the case.

The legal history goes further. When the School Board first challenged the opening of the South Palm Beach Charter in January 2015, the State Board overturned the decision. Then, the School Board appealed the decision to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, which ruled at the time that the State Board must hear the case again. The legal fight to keep Renaissance Charter out of Palm Beach also followed the same pathway through the court system.

The School Board’s decision Wednesday came one month after the board voted for a proposed tax referendum expected to generate $200 million for traditional public schools – and explicitly decided that none of the money could be used for charter schools.