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COLUMN

Happytown

The week where a call to arms brought unpleasant attention to the bumbling Republican machine, some oil cash brought more tackiness to the Panhandle and Joe Biden's brother brought bad education to Florida. It's already been brought-en!

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Just when we were (not) starting to warm up to the idea of charter schools saving all of education from the horrible public sector, the Miami New Times published a bombshell of a story on Dec. 29 detailing far more nefariousness than its title – “Mavericks charter schools don’t live up to big promises” – could possibly imply. It’s a really long story, and you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing, but the gist goes something like this: A huckster in a 10-gallon hat who heads up a charter school franchise born of a restaurant franchise in Ohio comes to Florida (after already being disgraced in Ohio, mind), strikes up a deal with Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade (who eventually bails out on the organization), hooks up with a post-drunk brother of the vice president of the United States, bilks $6,900 per student in state funding (plus $700 in federal funding; $250,000 in federal funding total), reportedly pays teachers less than $5,000 a year, charges each franchised school $350,000 a year in rent and averages a less-than-50-percent graduation record. Toss in lavish trips to Costa Rica, schools doubling as nightclubs and the typical scenery associated with carpetbagging financial impropriety and you’ve really got something. Yep, that’s the sound of the future.

Anyway, the story caught our eye because it turns out Mavericks isn’t solely a South Floridian problem. In 2009, the fast-food educators preying on poverty opened Mavericks High School in Kissimmee (48 percent graduation rate!). Even closer to home, though, was the November approval of a Mavericks right here in Orange County. How did that happen? Well, defying the advice of its own staff recommendations, the Orange County School Board approved a Mavericks school to ruin our own kids for profit. Hilariously, representatives from Mavericks claimed a 98 percent graduation rate in Kissimmee, according to a November 9 Orlando Sentinel report, even though the school didn’t have enough students to partake in the state’s testing system to give it an actual performance rating. Frank Biden, it should be noted, soberly pitched Mavericks to the school board, winning a 5-2 approval for the school.

“I’m a salesman,” Biden told the New Times, somewhat prophetically. “I’m nothing but a P.T. Barnum for these kids.”

Welcome to the circus.

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