BY BUDDY NEVINS
Broward school system higher-ups have held meetings to discuss how to entice the charter school industry to support a planned bond referendum.
At least one meeting has been held with representatives of charters.
The reason for the romancing of the big charter companies is simple math: By the time of the 2014 election there could be 40,000 Broward students in charters.
That translates into a lot of votes by parents, who have proven their dedication to education by taken extra steps to get their children into a charter.
“They are potentially a huge voting block,” conceded Board member Katie Leach.
Charter school parents could swing an election.
Broward School pooh bahs so far can’t figure out a way to give charter parents a reason to vote for new bonds paid by higher taxes.
“We have a problem working this out. Can we just give private companies that own these charter schools money to buy votes? ” another Board member said.
The bond sale, which must be approved by voters, would pay for improvements in three areas: School safety, technology and renovation of facilities.
A price tag has not been presented the Board, but the staff is expected to ask for several hundred millions at least. The school system has studies which indicate it has over $1 billion in unmet needs.
One idea to help charters is to revamp older school buildings with the bond proceeds and then lease them to the charter companies. Ownership of the building would remain with the school system.
Any attempt to let charters share in a bond issue is sure to cause political problems for the seven Democrats on the School Board. Many members of the Democratic base, including the teachers union, are cool or downright hostile to charter schools.
A charter school representative said that the school bureaucrats also view charters as a threat in Broward and statewide. That’s because charters could cost bureaucrats jobs. They take students from the public schools, leaving less need for the sizeable bureaucracy that serves them.
That may be why School Board member Nora Rupert discovered when she attended recent statewide conferences, no other county had worked with charter schools on a bond issue.
Although there is a lot of talk about charters – formally part of the public school system, although managed by other entities including some cities – there is no discussion about offering benefits from any bond issue to private schools. Thousands of students attend private and parochial schools in Broward.
Board members questioned seem amenable to working out a deal with only the charter schools to win the parents support in a referendum.
“If it’s going to help us get a bond issue passed, I’ll consider it,” Rupert said. “When it comes to charters, they are our children, too. I’m not closing any doors.”