Manatee Charter School and the School Board of Manatee County are close to a deal that would allow the charter to continue operating in the district, according to lawyers from both sides.
School board members were set to serve as arbitrators in a quasi-judicial hearing Monday morning that could have resulted in the district officially deciding to not renew the charter, but school district attorney Erin Jackson and charter attorney Shari L. McCartney filed a joint motion to continue the final hearing.
The school district’s concerns with Manatee Charter were laid out in a Feb. 9 letter from district general counsel Mitchell Teitelbaum. The letter notified the charter school that the district did not intend to renew the charter due to allegations of poor management and a disorderly environment at the school.
“The parties have reached a resolution in principle regarding the underlying issues ... and are diligently working to fully memorialize a proposed resolution to the concerns set forth in the Feb. 9 letter,” the motion states.
The resolution would include a one-year extension of the charter school contract and a detailed school improvement plan, according to the joint motion.
"The concerns being set forth by the district are being addressed, and an action plan is going to be proposed that will hold the school accountable,” Teitelbaum said. “Any failure will result in decisive action being taken by the district."
Florida has the third-most charter schools of any state, but charter schools here have also fallen under greater scrutiny lately.
In 2015, 38 new charter schools were opened, but 35 were also shuttered, according to a report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Florida’s closure rate of 5.4 percent tops the national average of 4 percent, and, while Florida is home close to 10 percent of the charter schools in the country, it accounted for roughly 14 percent of the closures in 2015, according to the report.
Travis Pillow, editor of redefinED, an online journal focusing on school choice, said as a wave of charters approved in 2011 come up for renewal, several school districts are paying closer attention to how well charter schools are honoring their contracts.
“The key question here is whether this is the district trying to stamp out competition, or whether this is the district exercising legitimate academic oversight,” Pillow said. “What really matters is what expectations have been set ahead of time for how the charter school will perform.”