This week, while the school board in one generally charter-friendly Florida district was voting to reject a charter school application, another lamented the limits of its authority.
Speakers lined up to oppose a pair of charter school applications before the Hillsborough County School Board. Most dinged charter schools generally but concentrated their criticism on for-profit management companies.
In a sign of rising political tensions, some school officials talked about turning their attention toward Tallahassee.
In some ways, Hillsborough County seems like friendly territory for charter schools. Steady population growth, a well-regarded charter school office and a relatively collaborative climate have allowed the district to avoid some of the problems that cropped up elsewhere in the state.
However, the school district is under fiscal stress. New needs, like security officers, add to its expenses. Superintendent Jeff Eakins is reorganizing the administration to shed an unsustainable cost structure and talking about a local tax referendum to boost revenue.
Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association was one of several speakers who argued charter schools make the problems worse. The union is trying to negotiate a new contract. Its demands for raises have run headlong into a lack of available funding. With that backdrop, she asked the school board to reject two applications to open K-8 charter schools in the fast-growing Riverview area. Continue Reading →