Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Hillsborough County School Board Gets a Spanking

WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD 

After pawing around in its budget looking for money, the Hillsborough County School Board decided to blame a group of charter schools for their inability to produce a working budget for the 2022 school year.

Solution, not renewing charter school contracts for four Hillsborough County charter schools. The schools included Pivot, South Shore, Woodmont and Kids Community College Preparatory High serving in total about 2000 Hillsborough County students.

You can get some additional information at these links:

From The Tampa Bay Times By Jeffrey S. Solochek: A charter school about-face in Florida’s third largest district.


From The Tampa Bay Times By Marlene Sokol: Hillsborough School Board reverses prior vote. Four charters to remain open.

It didn't take Florida Commissioner of Education, Richard Corcoran, and the State Board of education very long to react to Hillsborough’s funding treasure hunt. Corcoran indicated that if Hillsborough did not renew the four charter school contracts, he would invoke the State’s emergency authority that could hold up almost $950 million in Hillsborough County educational funding.

Just so you'll have a shorthand view of how this all works, in a nutshell, all County School Board funding that comes from the State is based on a per student funding model. In other words, the local school district gets a certain number of dollars per student, in attendance, on each day.

When a charter school is authorized by a school district in Florida, each student who enrolls in the charter school has their funding follow them to the charter school. Those funds are subtracted from the money previously paid to the local school district. So, as charter school attendance grows and their revenue reflects their growth, the local school district, in this case Hillsborough County school district, sees their revenues decline proportionately.

So, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that all this wrangling around between the State Board of Education, the Florida Commissioner of Education and Hillsborough County School District is all about money, and it has almost nothing to do with the quality of education that Hillsborough County students get.

Hillsborough County School Board members were notably upset by the Education Commissioner's actions and quoting from the article above: “We’re not criminals,” said Board Chair Lynn Gray, who is asking for written affirmation to protect the board members’ reputations.

I suspect none will be forthcoming.

In typical Hillsborough County school Board fashion, many of the board members were looking around for someone else to point the finger at, given the fact that they had just received a significant paddling from the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education.

Blaming the charter schools for the Hillsborough County educational system budget issues, just really doesn't make any sense. And attempting to close these charter schools as a means of raising their own revenue was just an unconscionable action.

For years there have been calls for the Hillsborough County School Board to reduce the administrative staff significantly and to institute cost reduction programs like closing underused facilities. They have always blamed the union for their inability to do that. Now, they blame the charter schools for not having enough money to fund their poorly organized and poorly administered educational system.

The one thing the Hillsborough County School Board did manage to avoid in this whole debacle was keeping the issue out of the court system. Their quick action in renewing the Charter contracts and trying to shove the whole charter school thing under the rug put an end to what was beginning to look like a serious legal challenge to the function and operation of the Hillsborough County school system.

All of this begs the question as to why these people get reelected repeatedly?  

The people of Hillsborough County need to think long and hard in the next few election cycles about who they're putting on the School Board and who those people are really trying to serve.

The only way things are going to change as if the voting public changes in.

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