More regulation of charter schools wanted

11 charter schools closed in Broward County last year

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - Two weeks ago, College Bound Academy's 60 students found the newly opened charter school had closed, leaving them scrambling to find new schools.

"I thought that I could facilitate those kids who are motivated educationally," said Winston Thompson, a dean at Broward College who started College Bound Academy.

When Thompson applied to start the charter school, he projected that he'd have 242 students, and received taxpayers' money.

"The numbers did not come in. The enrollment was not there," he said.

Thompson also said he'd receive about $500,000 in private financing but never got it.

"It was a projection," he said, adding that the School Board of Broward County never asked if he had the $500,000.

Thompson received $109,000 in state money, which was quickly used on rent and promotional costs. The school closed shortly afterward.

Thompson said he regretted trying to start a school without knowing how to make it work financially.

College Bound Academy is one of 11 charter schools that closed in Broward County last year.

Another, Ivy Academy, closed this month after accepting nearly $500,000 in taxpayers' money, leaving behind a trail of bad debts and a criminal investigation. The owner of Ivy Academy hasn't returned Local 10's calls for comment.

"Their priority is not education children. Their priority is making money, and it's a catastrophe," said school board member Rosalind Osgood. "I think that our community should be outraged."

"We have A through Z that they're supposed to meet, and if they meet everything on paper, our hands are tied," said school board member Nora Rupert.

Rupert wants more regulation from the state level.

"We need to have more control over the situation," she said.

The School Board of Broward County wants legislators to make charter schools more accountable. Their ideas include: forcing schools to post a bond or escrow money to ensure financial viability; verifying outside financing; and, confirming schools have viable locations before approval.

"We never get the money back, so it's a loss to the kids that they're not being educated, it's a loss and misuse of taxpayers' dollars," said Osgood. "They just get away with just strong-arm robbery in a sense with what they're doing in the charter schools."

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