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Wednesday November 26th 2014

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City Explores Charter School

Should the city of Pensacola start a charter school? It’s a question the Pensacola City Council may decide to start exploring tonight.

“It’s really saying, ‘the city needs to take it’s destiny in its own hands,’” Councilwoman Megan Pratt said today.

Pratt brought the issue to the council a few weeks ago. During tonight’s meeting, the council will decide if they want to continue exploring the concept and request further information.

Laying out the case for a municipal charter, Pratt said that such a venture could provide educational alternatives and, possibly, an increased population within the city limits. She gives examples of people who have moved, most commonly to Gulf Breeze and the Santa Rosa County School District, in order to find better educational opportunities for their children.

“It will be something to keep them in our city,” Pratt said.

The councilwoman said she feels there is a need for a school in the downtown area, and that a successful one might eventually attract people to move to the area and, in doing so, increase the city’s tax base. She listed off downtown educational tie-ins—museums, governmental centers, etc.—and said she would like to see local businesses play a roll in the charter.

“I believe an important part is to connect with the community,” Pratt said.

The councilwoman said that the talk of starting a charter should not be read as a statement on the Escambia County School District, but rather as the city searching for a way to improve it’s tax base—and also provide better educational opportunities for students.

“If we had the most outstanding school district in the country,” she added, “we would not be talking about this.”

The city council briefly discussed the charter school issue during Monday’s COW meeting. On a 4-3 vote, the board decided to hold a discussion tonight regarding possibly requesting further information on municipal charters.

Some council members had questions about the city opening a charter. They wondered if such a thing was something a municipality should do.

“If it’s not we need to close all the libraries and community centers,” Pratt said today. “Education is part of our mission.”

Some council members also wondered if Mayor Ashton Hayward was on board.

“I will tell you that John Asmar called me and told me they were interested in pushing this,” Pratt said.

If the city opened a charter school, it would receive a per-pupil dollar amount from the state, just as any other charter does. It would also require approval from the Escambia County School District.

“I believe Malcolm does believe in charter schools,” Pratt said.

The city council will discuss opening a charter school during tonight regular meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at Pensacola City Hall.