Orange County, Florida, home of Orlando, is the 12th largest school district in the US. It has over 115 elementary schools. Since 1999, we have been grading our schools. Last year, only three schools received an "F" rating.
One of them was Renaissance Charter School. The County has made it very clear they DO NOT WANT Charter Schools USA building another failed Renaissance Charter School. They are suing to stop the decision from the Florida Dept. of Education, stacked with Scott cronies, that is trying to force them to build THREE campuses in Orange County. The owner of Charter Schools USA, John Hage, is just appalled that anyone would sue to stop him.
The County is opposed to these schools based on their past performance. They have a good case, and the judge is weighing his options. In the meantime, Hage said screw it.
Charter starts construction, despite not having approval yet for school
Charter Schools USA isn't waiting for a judge to decide if it can open a disputed school in Orange County. Construction already has begun.
How do you build something that isn't approved?
Charter Schools USA and its owner, Jonathan Hage, are major donors to Gov. Rick Scott and have influenced changes to state law intended to make it easier for charter chains to open new schools.
In that case, my next question: what's it like living in a state that isn't a banana republic?
To those of us paying attention, Orange County's opposition is exactly the same argument that the Hillsborough School District made last month when it was looking to build a school at MacDill AFB near Tampa. Scott wanted his buddy Hage, of course. The Hillborough Co. Superintendent, knowing Hage's reputation, went so far as offering to convert a local school into a K-8 school as opposed to building one of Hage's failed schools. Yes, that was the cheapest and best option for the students--if only those were criteria here.
It is no secret that Rick Scott hates public schools. He cut $1.3 billion in K-12 education his first year (a record). He vetoed capital repairs for public schools, but approved them for charter schools. He got rid of long-term teacher contracts, and refused to even set foot in a public school until 7 months into his term. He does, however, love him some charter schools. He has done everything in his power to grow charter schools at the expense of traditional schools. In what can be described as a coincidence, his buddy/donor John Hage happens to be the region's largest charter school operator.
To be blunt, charter schools have, on a whole, been a disaster in this state. They make up the overwhelming majority of "F"-rated schools. In fact, charters were seven times more likely than regular public schools to receive F's on the state's report card.
But they make their owners money. LOTS of money. They are a $400 million dollar industry backed by real-estate developers. (That's right, real-estate developers, not educators.) But unlike traditional schools, they have virtually ZERO accountability:
But while charter schools have grown into a $400-million-a-year business in South Florida, receiving about $6,000 in taxpayer dollars for every student enrolled, they continue to operate with little public oversight. Even when charter schools have been caught violating state laws, school districts have few tools to demand compliance.
Hmmm. Act with no oversight. Make money off the people you are supposed to be helping. Violate state laws. Ignore the criminal justice system.
No wonder Hage is such good friends with Rick Scott.