WEST PALM BEACH — In the case of Renaissance Charter School against the School Board of Palm Beach County, the 4th District Court of Appeals has said the charter school hasn’t proven it meets the standards for such a school.
The case opened after Renaissance Charter School Inc. and Renaissance Charter High School of Palm Beach wanted to open a charter school and submitted an application to the School Board of Palm Beach County on Aug. 1, 2015.
The School Board, however, rejected the application, according to background information in the opinion. The Charter School Appeal Commission said the application was rejected because the School Board didn’t think the charter school was innovative enough. The board, however, said the school hasn’t shown that it can meet several other standards.
After the CSAC recommended Renaissance’s appeal to be granted, the State Board of Education adopted the recommendation and reversed the School Board’s denial of the application, the opinion states.
With the School Board appealing to the court, the judge ruled that “CSAC’s findings are inadequate for meaningful review.”
The court cited CSAC’s written recommendation, which says “the School Board did not have competent substantial evidence to support its denial of the Charter School Application based on the applicant’s failure to meet the standards for the Education Plan.”
This court said CSAC is required to include a fact-based justification in its written recommendation to the State Board of Education.
“CSAC’s finding was a ‘legal conclusion, not a fact-based justification’ and as such, meaningful review was not possible,” the court said. “This court further noted that CSAC members failed to engage in discussion and fact-finding during their meeting.”
Although CSAC members posed questions to the parties during the CSAC meeting, the court said that “the questions do not shed light on CSAC’s fact-based justification for its recommendation.”
At a meeting on Nov. 4, 2015, several people spoke on behalf of the charter school. The speakers included the charter school’s governing board, parents of students who currently attend Renaissance-operated schools in Palm Beach County, as well as a student and teacher at Renaissance school.
The speakers believed the school is innovative enough.
The school board said the application was denied because the charter school showed deficiencies in six sections. Those sections were Mission, Guiding Principles and Purpose, ESE, ELL, Student Recruitment and Enrollment, Budget and Action Plan.
Some of the sections were rated as “Does Not Meet the Standard,” while the others were rated as “Partially Meets the Standard.”
“The applicant doesn’t specifically address the deficiencies in the sections that were rated as partially meeting the standard,” the school board said. “The school board has good cause to deny the application based on deficiencies in those sections.”
The charter argued that the sections that were rated as partially meeting the standard were clarified during the applicant interview, but the board said, “the majority of the issues were not clarified or would require substantive changes to the application.”
The court reversed and remanded the case for CSAC to make factual findings consistent with Florida Statutes.