Two rejected charter schools take their cases to Florida Board of Education

The Florida Board of Education on Wednesday is set to hear appeals on two charter school applications — including one rejected by the Palm Beach County School Board for not being sufficiently “innovative.”

A school board member told the Sun-Sentinel the December rejection of the Florida Charter Educational Foundation’s proposal was an act of “civil disobedience.” The non-profit board is associated with Charter Schools USA, one of the state’s largest and fastest-growing charter school management companies.

The commission that reviews state charter appeals has recommended the state Board of Education overrule the district’s attempt to block the proposed school, voting unanimously that its application met all the requirements in state law, and that the school board did not show it was unqualified to operate.

Charter school critics in the state Legislature have sought to require charter schools to prove they offer something that districts do not, which was the thrust of Palm Beach board members’ objections.

Lawmakers have rebuffed those proposals, in part because local school boards, which in a sense compete with charters, would be the arbiters of which charters were deemed innovative enough to open. An attorney for the school told the Sun-Sentinel the Palm Beach school board used a “self-serving” definition of innovation.

Lawmakers and some charter school advocates, including Charter Schools USA CEO Jon Hage, have supported other changes in the legislation that would give school board more authority to scrutinize would-be charter schools’ academic and financial track records.

The state board will also hear an appeal from a separate Palm Beach County charter school applicant. The state charter appeals commission has recommended the state board side with the district in its rejection of an application from Lake Worth Classical Academy.

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BY Travis Pillow

Travis Pillow is Director of Thought Leadership at Step Up For Students and editor of NextSteps. He lives in Sanford, Fla. with his wife and two children. A former Tallahassee statehouse reporter, he most recently worked at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research organization at Arizona State University, where he studied community-led learning innovation and school systems' responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. He can be reached at tpillow (at)