VIERA, Florida - A political committee is warning of a potential takeover of closed school buildings by charter schools if the Brevard Public Schools board follows through with recommendations to close four schools at Tuesday night’s meeting.
“A substantial new threat and cost has been proposed that should give any Florida school district pause before closing a school this year,” said Michelle Speisman, the vice-president of Save Brevard Public Schools. “The (Florida) House Choice and Innovation subcommittee has approved a bill requiring school districts to hand over empty school buildings to charters rent free. A vote to close the four schools could open up central and north Brevard for charters to move in and take hold.”
When asked whether the district believes that this bill will affect the current school closure debate in Brevard, Michelle Irwin, spokesperson for BPS, said, “There are still too many variables at this stage.”
The actual language of the bill says, “If a district school board-owned facility that has previously been used for K-12 educational purposes is unused, it shall be made available for a charter school’s use at no cost.”
The 36-page bill, which adds more regulations on charter schools and provides for more district oversight, passed the 13-member committee in Tallahassee along party lines, with eight Republicans voting for it and five Democrats voting against it.
Speisman said, “School closures should be taken off the table for the 2013-14.”
The PAC’s president Matt Susin added, “With school closures there are some that have to be looked at. Declining enrollment numbers at our underutilized schools should be looked at.”
Regarding a proposal to eliminate corridor busing for Choice schools, the group said the district should collaborate with parents “to develop solutions that will provide viable transportation options for working families, which should include fee waivers or a sliding scale for lower income families.”
The PAC favors a fee to apply to Choice schools. “Fees for choice schools and out-of-area applications make sense and can offset the processing costs of the applications. Our understanding is that there would be a sliding scale for these fees which is necessary to make sure that choices are available to families of all income levels,” Speisman said.
Speisman added that the leaders of SBPS are moving in a new direction and are looking to dissolve the PAC. “We originally formed it as part of a movement for a 2013 special election.”