The Lake Wales NAACP put the Lake Wales Charter Schools on notice that it cannot support the charter schools’ new middle school request because the school system chooses which students get to go to charter schools, unlike public schools, which accept all students.
“I wanted to put them on notice that as an organization, the NAACP couldn’t support the charter school district,” said David Smith, NAACP president, referring to his statement at a Lake Wales City Council meeting recently where the charter schools placed a request with the city for property for a second middle school.
“They (charter schools) handpick their students (through application) and the NAACP views that as discrimination and can’t support the schools,” Smith said. “In the public schools, all children are allowed to attend.”
Smith cited background information where he said the NAACP took the Polk County Public School system to court in the 1980s in Tampa “because that school board proceeded to do certain things that discriminated against the minority and the problem was resolved. The charter school (which gets its charter from the school district) comes under that court order.
“I haven’t talked to them (charter schools) along these lines, but I wanted to put them on notice,” Smith said. “But as an individual taxpayer in Lake Wales I can’t see how the city can give them the use of the building when that is taxpayers’ fund.”
Smith questioned a fact shared by the charter schools.
“My other question is, where are the 400 kids covering this waiting list?” Smith asked. “Where are the kids living? There aren’t 400 kids waiting to go to school in the area, they are going to McLaughlin (middle school of the arts which is in Polk County School District).
“Are those other kids coming from Haines City or Winter Haven or other areas?” he asked. “I pay taxes in Lake Wales like everyone else and when the other communities are coming into Lake Wales for the charter school and our kids are on a waiting list, this is not right.”
In response, Jesse Jackson, Lake Wales Charter Schools superintendent countered Smith’s assertions. Charter schools have demographic targets required of them by the state, so there is no way that the new middle school wouldn’t have a selection of students.
“There is no real controversy,” Jackson said. “As a neighborhood school, the new middle school would draw from the neighborhood and that is not all black,” noting there are children in the area with various ethnic backgrounds and children now attending McLaughlin Middle School who walk to that school from that neighborhood.
McLaughlin is part of the public school system while Bok Academy is a charter school.
Some select schools are zone schools, meaning they are the school of choice for that area of the community. They were when they were public schools in Lake Wales and are still that way as the charter system. Those schools do not have applications for admittance.
“There is no real controversy there for enrollments to make it as much a demographic population,” Jackson said. “There will be some bus service but not nearly as much as what we have now at Bok Academy and that is simply because of its location.
“Frankly, because of school choice, all schools are open to students,” Jackson said. “In fact, that is how you get a waiting list, because you have something that the students want, whether it is at a charter school, magnet school or a regular school.”