US Department of Education’s War On School Choice in Florida

The Office of the Inspector General for the United States Department of Education, by their actions, seems to have a double standard for wrongdoing and impropriety concerning charter schools and public schools in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Last month, The Miami Herald reported that South Miami-based Academica Corp., Florida’s largest charter school management company, is being investigated by the USDOE for “potential conflicts of interests in its business practices.”

Charter school critics said the Inspector General’s findings were a reason to push back on HB 7083, the bill that could weaken the power of school districts over new charter schools. HB 7083 died in the House K-12 Education Committee.

Critics of charter schools and school choice were quick to pounce on the USDOE audit that spotted “potential,” but not proven and definite, improprieties akin to those committed by the school district in terms of bogus teacher evaluation training, teacher certification fraud, and test cheating at Miami Norland Senior High School.


Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado

“Obviously, there are some serious questions about the way the system works in Florida. The prudent thing for the Legislature to do would be to wait for the federal government to finish its work [on the audit] and then consider changes to the charter school law,” said Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado.

Jeff Wright, of the Florida Education Association, concurred: “If an audit like this is going on, the Legislature should not give charter schools more opportunities to game the system.”

But Rep. Manny Diaz, the Hialeah Republican sponsoring the bill, who left his job with the M-DCPS last year to become dean of a private college managed by Academica, said his proposal would not open the door to questionable business practices.

“This is not about opening up the Wild Wild West. We want there to be controls [over charter schools]. We just want to make sure the controls are uniform and transparent,” said Diaz.

It is interesting how Ms. Regalado and Mr. Wright come out on an unsubstantiated issue concerning charter schools, but where do they stand on substantiated wrongdoing by Miami-Dade County Public Schools on bogus teacher evaluation training, teacher certification fraud, and test cheating at Miami Norland Senior High School, and why have they not been vocal on those issues?

Furthermore, and more disturbing, the whistle-blower, Mr. Trevor Colestock, reported these issues to the USDOE OIG and they have done nothing to address them. Neither the USDOE or state officials have held anyone from Miami Norland Senior or M-DCPS to account.

Is it because charter schools and proponents of school choice espouse innovative teaching and offer students freedom from the Common Core and other federal government mandates and M-DCPS Superintendent Alberto Carvalho embraces Common Core, Race To the Top, and other federal initiatives?