Leon County’s newest charter school held its ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday even though classes are already in session. Governor’s Charter Academy pulled in Governor Rick Scott and Democratic Congressional Candidate Al Lawson for the event, as the school’s supporters highlighted the often-repeated mantra of school choice.
“It’s not choice because its winners and losers, the only winner should be children. What’s best for our children," said Scott. "And choice, that’s what parents want. We want competition. And as we create more choice across the state, it’s going to be for the benefit of our children.”
Governor’s Charter Academy is a for-profit public charter school run by the management company Charter Schools USA. Scott says one thing he’s heard from parents is that they want more options for how and where their children are educated.
The Governors Charter Academy was approved by the Leon County School District. The school’s management company operates 48 other schools in five states and has more than 40,000 students.
But its relationship with local education officials has been rocky. Prior to opening its doors, the school was sued by the district for failing to report how many students had enrolled. The Leon County School District won the lawsuit. John Hage is the President of Charter Schools USA, the school’s parent company. And during the event he avoided talking directly about the conflict.
“I want to thank those with the school district that helped approve this school. We worked with ...Superintendent Pons. We went through a good, tough negotiation and ended up with a great product," he said.
"They wanted to make sure we had a high quality charter school here. I want to thank that school district and the members of it."
But no one from the school district attended the event. The district’s spokesman says Superintendent Jackie Pons was invited but couldn’t attend due to a prior engagement.
Governors Charter Academy has been open since the start of the school year, and parents say they like what they see so far.
“They have new technology, and how they are focus one-on-one [teaching], but, we need schools where they make kids learn in the schools and then they come home and tell us what they learned in the school,” said Sobia Ahmed, whose daughter is in the third grade and attends the school.
Ahmed says that kind of individual attention wasn’t happening at the local school her daughter attended prior to transferring into Governors Charter Academy. She says she’s so pleased that she wants to enroll her older son when the school expands to the seventh grade next year.
“Because every day she comes she has something new. They have new technology and whatever they’re learning here, compared to my other kids, they didn’t learn it until two or three grades higher.”
Supporters of charter schools say they increase competition in education and that that competition makes all schools better. But opponents say charter schools drain resources from traditional public schools and gives it to for-profit businesses. Governor’s Charter Academy is Leon County’s seventh charter school. It has more than 560 students and serves kindergarten through sixth grade.