Sun Sentinel – Scott Travis, reporter – September 17, 2017 – The Palm Beach County School District has lost what’s likely its final appeal in its attempt to keep out a charter school.
The state Supreme Court issued a brief memo Tuesday, declining to take up the school district’s case against Florida Charter Education Foundation. The foundation wants to open a Charter Schools USA-managed Renaissance School in the west Delray Beach area, but the school district denied its application.
The state Department of Education sided with the charter school, as did the Fourth District Court of Appeal in a January ruling. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case means the lower court’s decision stands.
“The Florida Supreme Court had the discretion either to take the case or not; the court did not explain its reasoning for declining to take the case,” district spokeswoman Kathy Burstein said.
A spokeswoman for the Renaissance charter school said there is no target date yet for when the school plans to open.
“We are obviously pleased,” said Rod Jurado, chairman of the Florida Charter Educational Foundation. “Finally, Palm Beach County taxpayer dollars can go toward educating students instead of financing frivolous lawsuits. We look forward to putting this behind us so that we can work positively with the school board toward doing what is best for students.”
The School Board had rejected Renaissance and several other schools, citing a provision in state law that says charter schools should be innovative. But state education officials and courts have said Palm Beach County doesn’t have the authority to make that call.
The Palm Beach County School Board has generally supported charter schools that offer a niche, such as targeting high-poverty students or ones with autism, but has opposed in recent years ones managed by for-profit companies such as Charter Schools USA.
The company operates six charter schools in the county, which opened before the School Board first decided in late 2014 to stop approving new applications.
The school district had argued that the authority to approve charter schools belongs to local elected boards, not the appointed State Board of Education. Such a decision “takes out of the hands of local voters the ability to hold local board members accountable for this aspect of the county’s school system,” the district argued.
That same concern will likely be examined again in Florida courts as several districts are suing the state over a new law that requires school districts to share property taxes with charter schools.