Lightening up

This week, the Pasco School Board gave its approval to the application of Tampa-based Pepin Academies to open one of its charter schools for students with learning difficulties. Although the board voted 4-1 to approve the Pepin Academies school in Pasco, the board expressed concerns about how district staff handled the application. Those concerns, in our judgment, are misplaced.

Board member Joanne Hurley, who cast the lone dissenting vote, noted that Superintendent Kurt Browning had allowed Pepin Academies to make changes to its application for approval after staff was poised to recommend the board reject it. Pepin Academies got a “do-over” that previous charter school applicants did not receive before Browning was superintendent, she said.

Browning rejected the term do-over. Instead, he said, Pepin Academies received “what they were entitled to under Florida law and board policy.”

It’s no secret that a lot of people in the public education sector don’t like charter schools. A common objection to charters — privately run schools that get public funds but are overseen by the local school district — is that they siphon off resources, both money and good students, from public schools.

We suspect that many charter opponents are worried parents would yank their children out of public schools en masse if given an alternative such as a charter. We, however, are convinced an overwhelming majority of parents would stick with public schools regardless of the options available.

Perhaps that is why Browning sees no need to deny charter school applicants a bit of flexibility in meeting school district approval criteria they might not have received in the past.

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