An issue that has delayed city funding for fast-approaching summer-camp programs grew even more complicated Wednesday when a controversy re-emerged over whether the Jacksonville Children’s Commission should give any of its nearly $9.2 million to schools.

 

The commission’s CEO, Jon Heymann, was critical of the board’s decision to essentially allow public and charter schools to compete for afterschool and summer-camp dollars through their nonprofit foundations.”

“As long as I’m the CEO of this place — and you guys can take that vote as soon as you want — this should not stop the original dictate of this agency to bring the expertise and the resources of outside agencies to benefit the school system, and should not philosophically become another funding arm for the public school system,” Heymann said. “By not doing this, you are opening up a Pandora’s box that will greatly change the face of JCC.”

Regardless of the board’s decision, a larger legal question remains: Is the commission even allowed — by ordinance — to pass along money to these public schools?

A list of 13 local nonprofit agencies recommended to receive nearly $3.3 million city dollars became public shortly before the Jacksonville Children’s Commission’s monthly board meeting on Wednesday. Alongside established providers like the Police Athletic League of Jacksonville and the MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation were two charter schools: the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast’s Tiger Academy and Jacksonville Alliance for KIPP Schools.

In January the commission’s board held that public schools, including charters, were not eligible to receive this city funding. But, it said, these schools can work with a nonprofit to offer afterschool and summer camp services. For example, Communities in Schools has traditionally partnered with Duval County Public Schools to offer afterschool on public school campuses.

In the recommendations announced Wednesday morning, Tiger Academy and KIPP Public Charter Schools were able to secure funding through their associated nonprofits. For Tiger Academy, which is recommended to receive $581,577 for both summer and afterschool, that is the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast. For KIPP, which would get $752,796 for afterschool at three of its schools, the nonprofit was its own foundation, the Jacksonville Alliance for KIPP Schools.

According to the Alliance’s filings with the IRS for 2015, the nonprofit exists “for the benefit of, to perform the functions of, or to carry out the purposes of KIPP Jacksonville.”

While Tiger Academy and KIPP were recommended to receive funding, the Waverly Academy applied as a charter school and was deemed ineligible to bid for the grant.

The commission staff is asking for the city’s attorneys to further review the recommendations for KIPP and Tiger Academy to see if they comply with the law.

The grant money remaining is just shy of $6 million in afterschool and summer camp funding — and another $1 million-plus if the charter school bids are thrown out.

A first round of applications saw many major nonprofits, including Communities in Schools and Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida, miss the deadline to apply. Others struggled with the lengthy application and had their bids tossed out.

The commission board voted to open up the additional dollars to a second round of bids as soon as possible. The board rejected the recommendations of the commission staff to clarify the request for proposal in its second round to close the loopholes that allowed charter schools to apply for city dollars in the first round.

The changes would have specified that the nonprofit must have one year of experience operating afterschool or summer-camp programs, not just one year of experience. Another proposed change would have required the nonprofit to prove it hasn’t been established for the sole purpose of a school.

All but one of the board members present voted to reject the staff-recommended changes. Cathie Shimp, who was a longtime teacher in public schools, was the lone holdout. Shimp said it had been her understanding that the commission was never intended to fund schools.

Board member LeAnna Cumber recommended re-releasing the RFP as-is. Jill Bechtold agreed, saying she felt pressured to rush to a decision.

“You understand that that one restriction is going to open it up to any nonprofit?” Heymann asked.

“It’s fine,” Cumber said. “They can compete. And if they get it, they get it.”

Dana Kriznar, chief of staff in Duval Schools, said she felt strongly that bigger organizations, like the schools, will set up the smaller organizations to be put out of business. The dozens of nonprofit leaders attending the meeting grumbled in agreement.

“I’m very concerned about our partner providers,” Kriznar said.

Tessa Duvall: (904) 359-4697