Politics

Anti-Charter School Activist Now Supports Charter School for Her Kids

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: June 18, 2013 3:55 AM

Rowlett Elementary School

Rowlett Elementary School | Credit: bradenton.patch.com

In a historic move last week, parents at Rowlett Elementary School in Bradenton overwhelmingly voted to turn their public magnet school into a charter, but one of the parents leading the effort is a longtime activist for an organization that opposes charter schools and “Parent Empowerment” legislation.

On June 10, 95 percent of voting parents and 94 percent of all of Rowlett's teachers voted to move forward a petition to the Manatee County School District to allow their school – whose magnet program focuses on performing arts, visual arts, and communications – to become the first public school in county history to be converted to a charter using a special process provided for under Florida law.

Christine Sket, a student advisory committee member with two sons enrolled in the school, has received a fair share of local press for helping spearhead the effort. But she is also a founding member of Fund Education Now, an organization that has been at the forefront of opposing charter school expansion and, most recently, legislation that would have empowered parents of children at failing schools to avail themselves of the same option exercised by Sket and her peers at last week's public meeting

“I've distanced myself from Fund Education Now for the time being, because this does look hypocritical,” Sket, whose LinkedIn profile still lists her as being affiliated with the group, tells Sunshine State News. “But it isn't really [hypocritical].”

Sket insists there are two key differences between what she's advocating and what would have been put in place had state Sen. Kelli Stargel's Parent Empowerment (called “Parent Trigger” by critics) legislation passed the Legislature this past session:

-- Under current Florida law, 51 percent of teachers have to join 51 percent of parents to petition for a charter conversion before it can go forward. Parent Empowerment would only have required the parental vote.

-- Under state law, charter-converted schools must be managed by nonprofit organizations, whereas the Parent Empowerment would have allowed (but not required) management by for-profit corporations.

“What we oppose is having it be a one-sided takeover,” Sket insists. “We also say that choice is good. ... We're a magnet school, so we're already 100 percent choice and we're already operating differently from a traditional public school.

“We've always been OK with not-for-profit [charter] schools,” she adds.

But SSN could find no materials published on Fund Education Now's website that makes Sket's distinction between nonprofit and for-profit managed charter schools. In none of the site's Web pages blasting Parent Empowerment or other charter school-expansion initiatives is that distinction made, where one might think it would be most appropriate.

Rowlett Elementary's situation can be distinguished from the schools that would have been eligible for Parent Empowerment in one other respect: it isn't a failing school at all – it regularly earns As and Bs in the state grading system. Parents and teachers have opted to convert it because its continued funding by the Manatee County School District is in jeopardy.

Allison Aubuchon, deputy communications director for the Foundation for Florida's Future (a think tank founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush), suggests that the recent move by Rowlett's parents vindicates the foundation's own longtime efforts on behalf of Parent Empowerment and school choice.

“It is always a good thing when parents get involved to make decisions about their children’s education,” she tells SSN. “In this particular case, parents and teachers worked together and decided that converting into a charter school was the best thing for students, and we hope this results in a great success for them.”



Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at 954-235-9116.


Comments (4)

manuel cambo
4:59AM JUL 21ST 2013
As it stands now the Florida's 2004 Parent Empowerment Bill is a Teacher's Empowerment Law and very Un-American because of the quorum rule . That explains why no parent would consider applying to their school until I and another parent were the first in Florida to force the vote. We were not in it to win it but to change it and to establish the legal precedent on behalf of all Florida parents.. It quorum rule allowing Teachers in essence, to have veto power over parents who pay the taxes? That is not empowerment that discouragement. What President Governor has been elected this way? None.The law was not intended for a perfect storm to arise or to must form like it did perfectly at Rowlett; a retiring Principal that is beloved by staff and Parents, able disseminate the misinformation put out by a District in public forum. This is not a transparent election process. On top of that all the stars were aligned with a new Superintendent caught of guard and the past left under suspicions circumstances.. . This scenario is not what was intended when the law was passed in 2004. Congratulations to Mr. Flynn and Ms. Sket you overcame all odds and now in the Florida history books . . But the law must be amended with our suggested language as that allows for Proponents to host YES Forum and access to weekly communicator for advocacy materials and the school budget as we proposed to Governor Scott. We are looking for your support next years as we try again.
Christine Sket
9:42AM JUN 18TH 2013
This article from October 2012 differs with the statement that, no evidence has been found about my charter school stance: "We have some amazing charter schools. Schools doing exactly what charters are supposed to do, and that's provide a different style of education,'' said Christine Sket, regional director for Fund Education Now, which has sued the state over school funding.
Reported in the Tampa Bay .com by Romano on Oct. 27, 2012

Additionally, March 30, 2012 I spoke on METV in Manatee County for a charter school/choice forum, hosted by our school board member Karen Carpenter, with Dr. Jones from MSA charter and Dr. Crocker from SCF charter.

Finally, I am not a founder of Fund Education Now. I do support Fund Education Now's efforts in requesting our elected officials follow the State's Constitution in making the education of children the paramount duty and that includes funding education.

In reporting it is important to have the facts and I hope this clarifies any discrepancies in this report.
Eric Giunta
10:02AM JUN 18TH 2013
". . . the statement that no evidence has been found about my charter school stance . . ."

I explicitly referred to the official materials published by Fund Education Now. None of the ones that we've reviewed makes the distinctions you personally do.

"I am not a founder of Fund Education Now."

I referred to you as a "founding member" because you have been affiliated with the group since 2009, the year it was founded.
Christine Sket
11:27AM JUN 18TH 2013
Eric,

I just don't want to children's lives or future education to be tangled up in politics. It is sad that education has become so political. Thank you for showing both sides of the coin and my input was for better understanding. The school is not about Fund Education Now or myself; it is all about 900 students who are succeeding with an almost 50% minority and 43% free and reduced lunch participation. Rowlett is an amazing school reaching children with the arts and positive values for lifelong learning.

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