Florida Board of Education overturns Palm Beach’s rejection of charter applications

The Florida Board of Education on Wednesday overturned the Palm Beach School Board’s rejection of two charter school applications.

The decision followed a recommendation by the Charter School Appeal Commission, which found the School Board did not have good cause to reject the South Palm Beach Charter and Renaissance Charter High School applications.

This is not the first time the Palm Beach School Board has been at odds with the state board. In 2017, Palm Beach challenged the State Board’s discretion to reverse School Board denials of charter applications. But the Florida Supreme Court tossed out the case.

Palm Beach had argued that it has the right to reject the application of Renaissance Charter High School based on the school’s proposed budget, because the budget provides lower salaries for teachers than is offered in the district. With the rejection of the South Palm Beach Charter, Palm Beach argued that the school failed to meet the statutory requirements for using a strong innovation model.

The State Board was not persuaded, however. Board member Ben Gibson questioned Palm Beach attorney Sean Christian Fahey, asking whether the district’s determination of innovation was subjective.

“It is objective,” Fahey said in response.

Board member Michael Olenick challenged whether the district’s concern over teacher salaries at Renaissance were selective.

“Are there any charter schools that have an average teacher salary that is less than your traditional schools?” Olenick asked Fahey.

Fahey said he could not determine that.

“I don’t know if there any other schools in Palm Beach County that are deficient in this way,” Olenick responded. “I am trying to be open-minded, but I haven’t seen an answer that is going to help you.”

Renaissance attorney Stephanie Alexander also noted that the Palm Beach superintendent had recommended approval of the South Palm Beach charter application.