Fight brewing over money for Georgia charter schools

Three Georgia charter schools are closer to getting thousands more in student funding.

The State Board of Education approved a plan that would allow three state-chartered schools to become commission-chartered schools.

What’s the difference? State-chartered schools were approved by the State Board of Education after local school boards denied them. These schools get state money, but no local funding.

Commission-chartered schools are approved by the new Georgia Charter Schools Commission. This group, created by the Legislature last year, has the power to approve charter schools and give them local and state money. Schools would get local money even if the local school board denied their applications

The three charter schools seeking the change are: Ivy Preparatory Academy in Norcross, the Scholars Academy State Elementary in Riverdale and Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts & Technology in Statesboro. The commission could vote on the three schools June 18.

Expect public school districts to fight this. Several have threatened lawsuits.

Critics argue that the commission usurps local control. They question the wisdom of an appointed state commission awarding local tax money to a group without approval from locally elected officials.

They also fear the loss of funding at a time when school districts are cutting programs and laying off employees.

Commission members and others argue that because charter schools are public schools they are entitled to all the funding traditional public schools receive.

Charter schools have been getting a lot of support lately from President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. States that are restrictive with charter schools could lose some federal “Race to the Top” stimulus money, Duncan said Monday.

Charter schools are supported with taxes but exempt from many regulations traditional public schools must follow. The expectation is that charters use innovative methods and programs.

Who should decide whether charter schools get local tax money? Does the new commission usurp local control?

18 comments Add your comment

ScienceTeacher671

June 12th, 2009
8:59 am

Yes, the new commission does usurp local control. Why should the local government be compelled to fund schools over which it has no control?

Either the local government chose not to charter these schools, or the schools rejected local control and went directly to the commission for their charters. The bottom line is that the schools chose to open with or without local support, so they should continue on their chosen paths unless they agree to trade local control for local funds.

catlady

June 12th, 2009
10:54 am

Seems, like the creation of the Commission, to be a way to “reward” certain people. Certainly nothing new in Georgia about things of that nature. The list in the last 8 years is a long one.

[...] Get Schooled | ajc.com – [...]

jim d

June 12th, 2009
11:10 am

I can’t help but wonder how much GCPS will have to surrender of its 2 billion dollar budget?

Napoalvin and crew will surely bring this to court at the expense of taxpaayers and still not win. Someone needs to place a dollar amount on what we are talking about here.

jim d

June 12th, 2009
11:14 am

I’m also curious about the many people that thought Ivy Preparatory Academy was a great idea a year or two ago will now feel differently about an all girls middle school

charter supporter

June 12th, 2009
12:08 pm

ScienceTeacher671 – Ivy Prep had roughly 100 students on its waiting list – if that isn’t local support, I guess I don’t understand the concept. What these schools don’t have is support from the local school boards. Clearly, the public does support these schools or there wouldn’t be any students enrolled. The local school boards don’t support charter schools because they threaten their monopoly.

ScienceTeacher671

June 12th, 2009
12:50 pm

Charter Supporter, there is obviously at least some local support for each of these schools. The point is that if you wish to avail yourself of local funds, you ought to have to work within the local system — if the local charter supporters had sufficient local support, they ought to be able to either convince the local school boards of the viability of their plans, or garner enough local voters to either overcome the objections of the board or replace the board with another more ameniable board. That’s the way our political system works.

Supporting local control

June 12th, 2009
12:52 pm

Actually the new commission supports local control. It gives the locals an option, when the education monolith, trying to maintain its power, doesn’t respond to the needs of the community.

The education monolith may try to spin this as a concern about local control, but in reality it’s all about power and control. Their power, and their control.

As this threatens the stranglehold of the monolith, this is a good thing.

jim d

June 12th, 2009
1:47 pm

science teacher671

Are you familar with how GCPS works? Unless I’m mistaken the only charters they have approved are theirs. The ones operated by the school system itself, and they too get away without many of the state and fed. requirements but still avail themselves to full funding.. Your argument doesn’t pass muster.

charter supporter

June 12th, 2009
2:31 pm

ScienceTeacher671 – Perhaps the supporters of the charter schools could vote out the school board and vote in a new board that is responsive to the public. In the case of Ivy Prep, none of the Gwinnett county board members terms expire until December 2010, and several not until 2012. Children need viable educational options NOW, not sometime after December 2012.

ScienceTeacher671

June 12th, 2009
2:57 pm

I don’t live or work anywhere near Gwinnett County, so I can’t say that I’m intimately familiar with the workings of the board or of the system. I gather from the postings on this board that many of the “regulars” here despise the superintendent and the board.

I’m just speaking from general principles.

Charter Board Member

June 12th, 2009
7:19 pm

This article is completely misleading in the statement “Charter schools are supported with taxes but exempt from many regulations traditional public schools must follow.” Being a member of the board of a Georgia Charter School I am very familiar with how much funding we receive and it is the absolute minimum per child only. While this is the “same amount public schools receive” we receive no additional funds that can be appropriated to local schools. We spend all year having fund raisers to pay our teachers, and provide simple tools that public schools consider standard budget allowances. One public school has Smart Boards in every classroom while we have one for the entire school. The reason we have huge wait lists is due to specific items in our Charter are more stringent than local/state requirements. We commit to keeping lower classroom sizes, more one on one attention to students and teaching to learn instead of teaching to the tests. We don’t have fancy music programs or sports teams but our children are happy to learn and happy to be in a small-town environment. All parents are required to participate in the classroom and the learning process. Parents must also perform volunteer hours to work at the school each year. Our board is made up of parent volunteers who solely focus on the students at this one school and making sure it is fabulous. How can the Atlanta school board focus on that many schools? Many schools are lost in the mix and all responsibility is left to the principal on site. Our charter guidelines are a huge commitment for parents but well worth the effort.

Larry

June 12th, 2009
7:48 pm

Irony is one of my favorite things.

I disagree with Jim d – a situation which is not only normal, but likely a required component of life as we know it. Curiously, this position puts me in bed with Alvin – an occurrence which is (to understate it) atypical. Cool.

Repeating my previously stated position, the state law does NOT require a local school system to fund a state approved charter school. Read, without interpretation, what the law actually states:

O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2090
(a) The Department of Education shall pay to each commission charter school through appropriation of state and federal funds an amount equal to the sum of:
(1) [Irrelevant]
(2) [Irrelevant]
(3) (A) An amount determined by the commission for each student enrolled in such school equal to a proportional share of local revenue from the local school system in which the student attending…

Notice that the law does NOT say these funds come from the local school system, but that the “proportional share of local revenue” will come from “state and federal funds.”

Jim, we need a Choir Practice to resolve this before it gets to court – which means I need 100G for bail to attend. Thank you in advance for your support.

jim d

June 14th, 2009
6:01 am

Gee Larry, hadn’t heard from you in awhile–wondered what had happened to you. I must say I’m a bit strapped and seem to be short your bail. However, since you appear to have a great deal of time on your hands please continue reading—you might start with 20-2-184.1, paying special attention to (3)(a) which was signed into law sometime in May of 08.

Also note Code Section 20-2-162. The state board shall, to the extent necessary, reduce the amount of state funds to be allocated to local school systems in support of the Quality Basic Education Program or in support of any of the purposes for which state funds might be allotted to local school systems under this article if the amount of state funds appropriated in support of such program or in support of any one or more of the purposes for which allotments of funds are provided by this article is not adequate to finance the cost of the state portion of such program or such purposes, determined in accordance with this article.; and
(4) If a charter system, adding any additional amount which may be earned pursuant to Code Section 20-2-165.1.”

AND this lovely clause that gets added at the end of every legislation.

SECTION 3.
All laws and parts of laws in conflict with this Act are repealed.

As for CHOIR practice? Give me a call when you escape your current surrroundings—you have the number.

Irony sucks don’t it?

jim d

June 14th, 2009
6:04 am

Correction;

Irony sucks when you are run over by a truckload of it.

jim d

June 14th, 2009
7:23 am

Laura,

Many of the discussions on these blogs reverts to charter schools and many of the misconceptions of not only the public but teachers as well, primarily that charters are allowed to hand pick students by either testing methods or GPA’s, and that they are not required to provide for all students. Perhaps an article and discussion are in order explaining the law and a few facts regarding charters and the student selection process.

(Whatta think?)

Not Local Funds

June 15th, 2009
3:53 pm

To people like Science Teacher 671: The term “local funding” is confusing you and therefore causing you to come to a false conclusion.

You are looking at this issue from the stand point that local districts will be “forced” by the Commission to give money to schools they did not approve. The fallacy in this argument is that local school systems don’t collect taxes — property or commercial — so it is not the local school system’s money to give, per se.

Property taxes are collected by the county or the city. Local school systems calculate their enrollment (first numbers are due in October) and a formula is used to determine how much tax money each local district should get.

Prior to the creation of the Commission, local districts would not “pass along” tax money to charter schools they had denied — many unfairly so. Now local districts (or the monolith, as someone else has referred to them) will no longer be able to descriminate against the children of tax paying citizens by refusing to fund their schools equally.

There really is no argument here. Charter schools ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and should be funded accordingly.

IvyPrepSupporter

September 17th, 2009
10:14 am

I agree with the comments from Not Local Funds. I am a Gwinnett County Property Tax Citizen whose daughter attends Ivy Prep — one of the best educational decisions we’ve made outside of extra-curricula activities from GA State’s Saturday School Gifted program. When our daughter’s education was somewhat limited from our district, we sought out other alternatives. The high cost of private school was too much to bear on our budget, so we prayed for a long time for our daughter to get accepted, which is done by a lottery (no handpicking at all!!). Many student’s names were not selected as they reached in to pull a name. Watch the videos on Ivy Prep. It details the process. Secondly, we were impressed with the values, leadership and curriculum of the school which is highly equivalent to our core values surrounding education, etiquette and professionalism. These girls have THE BEST education and it is so sad that Gwinnett County School Board wants to take it away because their schools fared lower than the scores of this school. The threat of more charter schools popping up may be a concern for other districts, but certainly Gwinnett can withstand the first All-Girls Publicly Chartered Middle School. The parent involvement at Ivy Prep is spectacular than what I witnessed at my daughter’s elementary school. Parents truly have a voice and it is respected. That is why you have so many girls on waiting list to enter Ivy Prep. Many parents who couldn’t afford private school now have an alternative for the most critical time in a girl’s life in developing academically in non-traditional areas of science, technology and math. Give these young scholars a chance and stop all the bickering over money.