Leon County Schools’ Charter Review Committee has accepted proposals for two new charter schools to open next year – but the superintendent is advising the school board to block their approval.
Adrienne Campbell is one half of the duo behind the idea for Tallahassee Classical School. The potential new charter school has 250 students on a waiting list. Tallahassee Classical is one of two charters Superintendent Rocky Hanna has advised the school board not to approve. If the board votes to approve charters for Tallahassee Classical and Plato Academy, the schools would open Fall 2019.
“It’s unfair to blanketly say that all charter schools are not a good thing for the community and drain the community,” Campbell said. “We have a really great example of a charter school in Leon County that does add value to the community. So, we’re looking to be a nonprofit, tuition-free public school.”
Campbell says the school is meant to bring classical education to Tallahassee, something she says is not currently available tuition-free. Classical education, like the name suggests, draws on classic literature in an approach that is heavy in reading and writing.
“We were disappointed in his feelings in regards to charter schools,” Campbell said. “We believe that charter schools, when done well, are a value add to the public school system because they offer an alternative form of education that meets the needs of our community.”
But Campbell says painting charter schools with a broad brush isn’t representative of what they can provide. She is responding to an editorial written by Hanna opposing her school and Plato Academy’s opening. Hanna says new charters would compromise traditional public schools’ resources.
“There’s only so many resources, and if we start opening up all of these mom and pop charter schools throughout our community, we’re going to slowly drain those resources away from our traditional public schools and begin to look, unfortunately, at cutting and eliminating programs,” Hanna said.
Hanna says he’s been put in a difficult position, having to give a recommendation that could determine the fate of schools he has been outspoken against. He calls the expansion of charter schools “reckless and unregulated,” and says he would prefer the decision be up to the State Department of Education.
“I almost feel like a hypocrite, being put in the position of having to sign off on the approval of a program, of new charters in our community that I don’t believe in the program in and of itself,” Hanna said.
Should the Leon County School Board vote to not approve the charter agreements, both schools would be able to appeal the decision to the State Board of Education.