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Will Palm Beach County School District join suit over school funding?

Posted at 2:38 PM, Jul 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-10 17:48:14-04

Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association President Justin Katz hopes the Palm Beach County School Board will join a lawsuit that the Broward County school system plans to file over a law allotting taxpayer dollars to charter schools.

"I think it was a matter of time to see which county stepped out first," said Katz.

Palm Beach County Superintendent Dr. Robert Avossa plans to discuss the lawsuit option with school board members at the next board meeting on July 19th. 

House Bill 7069 is receiving heavy criticism overall, but Katz said a provision that makes public school districts share funds with charter schools for construction and maintenance may give districts a shot at fighting back in a legal class-action lawsuit. 

"If taxpayer dollars at the local level are forced to be given to private charter schools, you're essentially just giving private property owners money to renovate and fix up their building and if that charter school closes down in six months to a year, there's no way to recuperate those funds," said Katz.
The bill also makes it easier for charter schools to move near low-performing public schools. The Principal at University Preparatory Academy in West Palm Beach said the schools offer competition. 
Governor Rick Scott has also said he signed the bill to increase school choice options for parents. However, in Palm Beach County on average, public schools perform better than charter schools. State school grades reveal this year five schools in Palm Beach County received F's after state testing, three of those were charters and two of those charters have received F's three years in a row. 
"Why would you take the more successful of the two systems and deplete their funds to prop up the less successful?" said Katz.
Principal Richard Ledgister at UPA, a free public charter school, said HB 7069 helps direct more funds to where students choose to attend school.
The school did receive an "F" for the first time this year, but Ledgister said the grade only reflects math and reading proficiency for third grade. He said the school provides more help for students in offering extended school says, free Saturday school, and free weekly tutorials.
Ledgister said the school exists to close the achievement gap in high minority, high poverty communities in West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach and that 92 percent of the students receive free lunch. Ledgister added the school should be entitled to state funds because it is a public school and also answers to the district as well as the state. 
Administrators for Learning Path Academy, another charter graded an "F" for 2017 did not want to speak. 
The majority of charters are for profit, unlike UPA, for that reason many outraged parents and teachers believe the school district needs to fight the legislature to keep taxpayer dollars in the public school system. 
"Every year they kind of erode our abilities, erode our morale, and just kind of beat down the public school systems," added Katz. "I looked forward to a legal challenge that will protect the taxpayer dollars and protect the public school system."