Pointing to choices made by parents, a state judge has ruled that a Southeast Florida school district cannot require a charter school to provide bus transportation to students.
Administrative Law Judge Darren Schwartz, in a 45-page order issued last week, sided with Renaissance Charter School at Tradition in a long-running dispute with the St. Lucie County School Board.
The case focused, in part, on a state law that effectively requires districts to provide bus transportation to students who live two miles or more from school. Also, St. Lucie County school officials argued that the charter school violated a contract by not providing transportation to students.
But Schwartz pointed to a state charter-school law that gives more leeway on transportation issues.
“(To) conclude that Renaissance Charter School at Tradition is required by the charter school statute to provide regular school bus transportation to all students residing more than two miles from the charter school would violate one of the fundamental principles of the charter school statute, which is to provide charter schools greater flexibility,” Schwartz wrote. “The Legislature specifically recognized that charter schools should have greater flexibility than traditional public schools. Parents choose to send their children to charter schools, knowing full-well that they may reside more than two miles from the charter school, and that their traditional public school may be located much closer to their residence than the charter school.”
Charter schools are public schools, though they are often run by private management companies. As part of a school-choice movement heavily backed by state Republican leaders, charter schools do not have to operate under all of the same requirements as more-traditional public schools.
The St. Lucie County School Board approved a contract in 2013 for Renaissance Charter School at Tradition. But later that year, the school board sent a notice alleging that the charter school was not complying with contract requirements for student transportation, according to documents filed in the case.
The charter school last year filed a petition at the state Division of Administrative Hearings to resolve the dispute. In part, the petition said that since its “inception, (the school) has had more students enrolled than it projected and the charter school currently has a waiting list of students hoping to matriculate there despite the fact that it does not offer regular busing to its students absent exceptional circumstances required by law (as is the case, upon information and belief, with most charter schools in Florida).”
But in response, the school board argued that a lack of transportation could prevent some students from attending the charter school.
“Tradition’s refusal to provide school bus transportation is a … ‘barrier to equal access for all students’ by excluding all students who cannot provide their own transportation,” the school board argued, quoting part of state law. “As a result, Tradition has breached the charter contract and has violated Florida statutes.”
Schwartz’s order alluded to student demand for the school. The order said the school opened for the 2013-14 academic year as a kindergarten- through sixth-grade school with 695 students. It grew to 890 students as it opened for the 2014-15 academic year, serving students in kindergarten through seventh grade.
“Parents of students enrolled at Renaissance Charter School at Tradition recognize that the decision to enroll their children at Renaissance Charter School at Tradition is a personal choice and not a privilege,” the order said.
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida
Samuel L. Bronkowitz says
This should be a good example of why privatizing schools into charters is a bad idea. It’s not about education, it’s about dollar signs.
Johnny Taxpayer says
“the charter school currently has a waiting list of students hoping to matriculate there despite the fact that it does not offer regular busing”
Seems to me like parents don’t have an issue with the lack of busing. The fact that they have a waiting list, as nearly every well run charter school has, shows it actually is about education and giving parents options instead of forcing a one size fits all school system on every child. Why is choice such a bad thing?
Nothing wrong with choice at all, but when only the haves get to choose because they have their own transportation, the school effectively cherry picks the students of means, and ignores those unable to provide their own transportation.
Johnny Taxpayer says
Haves? The ability to ensure your child has a ride to school makes one a “have” and “of means”? Are we so far removed from parental responsibility that finding a way to get your child to the free school is no longer a basic responsibility of parenting?
Jim the Working Civilian says
It is not always affordable for some parents because they could need to work early in the morning and not have time to take their children to school. When i was in school I sat around until five every day because my parents who were scientists at the local university worked late and we didn’t have bus at my school.
To wit , 30% of Charter Schools in Florida fail.
“Records show 12 charter schools have shut down in the last five years in the Broward school district, leaving more than one million dollars in taxpayer money unaccounted for. In Miami-Dade, failed charter schools did not return almost $1.5 million and in Palm Beach, the figure is $800,000.”
NBC 6 investigator Tony Pipitone takes a look at what happens when charter schools close and where the money they were given ends up. (Published Tuesday, Nov 25, 2014)
Sherry E says
Enter the “profit motive”. . . goodbye education! We are selling our kids’ future just to add to the bottom line of “charter (AKA segregated) schools. Why, oh why do we continue to believe in and vote for the corrupt capitalists of the USA?
Johnny Taxpayer says
The idea that the “profit motive” is even in play is ridiculous. The vast majority of Charter schools in Florida are run by non-profits! And even the few that are for profit, typically score pretty high. As far as “segregation”, that could not be further from the truth. Just visit one of the charter schools and you will see they are as diverse if not more so than any of the traditional public schools in the area.
Jim the Working Civilian says
You could not be further from the truth. There is simply too much overwhelming proof that charter schools are segregated. I have even done extensive research on the subject and i guarantee you that charter schools are in general more segregated than public schools and on the profit motive aspect, explain why such nonprofit based entities are funneling money for private jets.
Sandy Krischke says
You are wrong. (with the segregation comments) I say that because Florida law mandates charter schools have a demographic population that mirrors that of the community it serves. Since Charter schools in FL are county wide, as opposed to zoned like traditional schools–they will have the same demographics as the entire county has, making them MUCH MORE diverse. Whereas traditional public schools have zones and preference for close proximity to schools, so if a school is built in a more affluent area (Say, in this example of St. Lucie County, St. Lucie West which is entirely gated community based area of high taxes and high home prices), St. Lucie West K-8 would have a much more affluent population. Do your research. Charter schools get some flexibility (in terms of curriculum choice, calendar, etc..) in what they offer in exchange for higher accountability. Public schools are allowed to fail, charter schools get shut down if they fail. If test scores are low in one school, the district can shift the gifted program into that school to raise the grades–talk about politics. Also, charter schools have to do more with less. If you look at the funding model for K-12 public education, each child has a price tag (FEFP) attached to him or her in terms of federal/state/local dollars, but if that child is pulled out of the traditional school and put into a charter, the charter has to educate 100% of that child but only gets about 80% of the funding attached to him or her due to the funding mechanism (which needs to change)–so public school boards should LOVE them…they get 20% of funding and never have to even see the kids! Ha….what a joke when people say charter schools take from education.