Hillsborough County school board bows to state threat on charter schools

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – The Hillsborough County School Board voted to reverse a decision on four Charter Schools on Tuesday after an emergency meeting.

State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a letter threatening to withhold state funding if the board did not reinstate the charters of the four schools that had been revoked earlier in the month.

The Board had voted to pull the charters of Kids Community College Charter School, Pivot Charter School, Southshore Charter Academy, and Woodmont Charter School.

The board found these schools were not meeting state and federal laws for education standards for special needs and gifted students. In the case of two of the schools the board had concerns about their financial stability.

Despite the board’s vote, State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a letter saying “None of the schools are graded below a “C” and in fact, two schools are graded as “B” schools. As I’m sure you are aware, the students attending these schools come from economically disadvantaged homes”

Corcoran’s letter said the board failed to notify the charter schools 90 days before terminating their Charters and therefore the board was in violation of state law. As a result Corcoran said if the board did not return the charters, state funds would be withheld.

On Tuesday, the attorney for the school board advised the board he did not agree with Corcoran’s opinion on state law, but also advised the board state funds could be withheld if the case went to court.

During an emergency meeting with school board members several parents, teachers and students came to speak to make an appeal that the charters be returned.

“After 18 months of a pandemic-related stress and fear, there has never been a more critical time for continuity in the lives of students,” said Robert Blunt with Kids Community College.

Teacher Nicole Stevens at Woodmont Charter told the board her school earned a “B” rating while serving minority students and surrounded by failing public schools.

“There is a way to right this wrong, renew our charter,” said Stevens.

School Board member Jessica Vaughn told the board she’s seeing a disturbing pattern from Corcoran.

“I see a pattern developing where the state threatens to withhold funding whenever we make a decision they don’t like,” said Vaughn.

Ultimately. there was a 6-1 vote to renew the contracts for all four charter schools. Scott Hottenstein with the Democratic Public Education Caucus says it was the wrong thing to do.

“It’s an issue of letting a bully get his way,” said Hottenstein.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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