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FCAT Results: Charter Schools Have High Failure Rate

MIAMI (CBS4) - In his first visit to South Florida as governor, Rick Scott visited Florida International Academy, a charter school operated with public money by a private, for-profit company.  Scott - a big charter school booster - said the school in Opa Locka could serve as a model for the rest of the state.

But in FCAT grades released last week, Florida International Academy's elementary school scored an "F."

In Miami-Dade, a greater percentage of charter schools failed than public schools.

Every school that got an "F" in Broward County was a charter school.

Statewide the failure rate of charter schools versus public schools is striking.

A CBS4 News analysis of Department of Education numbers shows fewer than one percent of public elementary and middle schools received an "F" in grades released last week.  In contrast, nearly six percent of charter schools received an "F."

Charter schools got failing grades at a rate more than seven times that of public schools.

Critics of corporate-run schools are saying, "I told you so."

Pat Santeramo, president of the Broward Teachers Union, said the boom in privately-run charter schools is a growing drain on the public education system.

"It's public dollars, taxpayers' dollars, coming out of the public school system and going into a for-profit charter school," Santeramo told CBS4's Gary Nelson.

The news of the failure rate among charter schools had some taxpayers re-thinking the privatization of education.

"They need to be productive.  If they cannot supply good grades, if the students cannot get good grades, then we should not support them," said Ruben Mendiola, sipping a Cuban coffee at El Tropico Restaurant in Doral.  "They need to produce."

Just last week, Governor Scott was in South Florida - at another charter school - signing a host of bills that will allow the expansion of the schools in the state and vouchers for some students to attend private schools.

In response to a CBS4 News inquiry about charter school performance on the FCAT, a spokesperson for Scott released a statement saying that the governor "supports giving parents and students more choice...and supporting good charter schools is one way of making that happen."

That was greeted with cynicism by Santeramo of the teachers union.

"Parents have to realize that the funding of that charter school could be going into the pockets of a corporate friend of the governor, or a corporate friend of a friend," Santeramo said.

Principal Sonia Mitchell at the Florida International Academy stressed in a telephone interview that the Academy's middle school scored a "B" on the FCAT.  Mitchell said the "F" rated elementary school - that shares the same campus and administration with the middle school - has been open for only a year.

"It's going to take some time for me to get these children up to where they need to be," Mitchell said.

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