Vitti criticizes House's plan to replace failing schools with charters

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County's superintendent of schools is criticizing a plan that has passed the Florida House of Representatives and would close schools that have earned D or F grades after two years and fund privately-run charter schools to set up in the same neighborhoods.

Dr. Nikolai Vitti wrote an open letter to Florida's state senators over the weekend urging that they make a different choice. 

"I implore you to not accept House Bill 5105," Vitti wrote.

Under the proposal, Ribault Middle, Matthew Gilbert Middle and Northwestern Middle schools in Jacksonville are in danger of closing if they don’t get a grade of C or higher this year. The new rule could also force over 112 other schools in the state to close.

The so-called "Schools of Hope" program was attached to a House budget bill and passed on a party-line vote, It would funnel $200 million toward qualifying charter schools.

Vitti said the bill would hurt some of the poorest children in the state and doesn’t give districts enough time to improve a school’s performance. He also said that converting failing public school to charters does not guarantee success.

"So what we would see is an increase in (the) number of schools that would be lowest performing and it shortens the timeline to show improvement to a C or higher for these schools," Vitti said. "That has historically had the most negative impact on the urban core, on students that are growing up in poverty."

READ: Vitti's letter to Florida senators

Vitti said a better solution is to put more money into medical and dental assistance for students, extending the learning day, expanding arts and athletics – and providing additional mental health services to help students at these schools.

Vitti said there will be a rally on Thursday in Tallahassee against this the House proposal and how capital revenue for charter schools is used.


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