Pasco County School Board members and Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning are raising concerns involving issues regarding contract compliance of some charter schools operating within the district.
The item regarding the charter school reports was presented for information only, on the school board’s Oct. 3 agenda.
But school board member Colleen Beaudoin pulled the item for discussion.
“I have some questions and concerns with regards to some of the charter schools.
“I notice that Pinecrest and Innovation Prep are out of compliance with the contract, and it appears they didn’t respond to the district’s review or provide clarification or comments,” Beaudoin said.
“And, also there are schools with net deficits, the most significant being Union Park, with the net deficit position of over $1.6 million, so what’s the district’s plan of action to address this?”
Browning said that he, too, had planned to discuss the item.
“I did want to draw attention to three schools. One was Union Park Charter Academy, which is experiencing a $1.6 million net deficit position, as Miss Beaudoin said. That is a concern for us.
“You will also find that there were a number of governance standards they had not met and they did not comment, return any comments at all to Mr. (Jeff) Yungmann (who reviews charter schools) and his staff to answer their deficits.
“In addition to that, Innovation Preparatory Academy, a number of governance standards were not met. Five of the 11 finance and operations standards were not met.
“Again, there were no corrective comments from Innovation Prep Academy .
Browning said Pinecrest Academy Wesley Chapel also had not met a number of standards and had not provided comments in response to the district’s concerns.
The superintendent went on to say: “I will tell you that this process is incredibly frustrating to me, because quite honestly, I think the school board has a perfunctory role when it comes to charter schools. Generally, if charter schools don’t get what they want from local school districts, they go to Tallahassee and the department generally grants what they’re asking for.
“I don’t know why they even have us as part of the approval system or even require us to have the reviews, when the reviews really don’t amount to a hill of beans.
“I think all it does is shine a light.
“But it’s frustrating because these are our kids that they are educating.
“I’ll tell you, we have standards we have to meet. We will get whacked, as a school district, if we don’t meet those standards. It’s not necessarily the same case for our charter schools.”
Yungmann said the school district, which sponsors charter schools, must monitor them for compliance in areas such as governance, finance, human resources, insurance, facilities, food and nutrition services.
“As part of the review, we do highlight certain areas, and of course, we give the opportunity for the schools to provide school comments.
“Five of the schools did not provide school comments. We even gave them two opportunities. “One was to provide documentation by a certain deadline and the other was to provide school comments,” Yungmann said.
Union Park, which was showing a net deficit of $1.6 million, is now showing one of $1.9 million, Yungmann said.
“To me, as a layman for finance, that’s signal-signs for distress,” he said.
While school districts have little authority when it comes to charters, the school board does vote on charter school extensions.
He pointed out to the board: “these are the same schools that are going to come back to this board, asking for a 10-year or 15-year extension, when their contracts are renewed.”
School board member Alison Crumbley expressed frustration regarding the situation.
“What do we do about a $1.9 million deficit?” she said.
Megan Harding, the board’s chairwoman agreed: “That’s huge.”
Crumbley added: “That’s ridiculous.”
Yungmann said if a charter school is being operated by the same governing board in other counties, they can share funding across the counties.
He also said that a recent state law requires charter school renewals to be granted for at least five years, unless they are deemed to be operating at a Double F status.
Browning told board members: “in large part, your hands are tied.
But he added: “‘We’re just bringing this information to your attention. Your action will come into play when they come back for contract renewals.”
Published October 11, 2023