Three Georgia districts among top 50 in charter students

A new national report lists three Georgia systems, Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb, among the top 50 school districts by number of charter school students, 2008-09. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools produced the report.

With nine percent of its students in charter schools, Fulton ranked 26th. Of Fulton’s 88,299 students, 7,782 attend charter schools.

Cobb ranks 40th on the list, with 5,659 students out of its 106,747 students attending charter schools.

DeKalb ranked 43rd on the list, with 5,365 students out of its 99,775 attending charter schools.

The fourth report by the alliance reflects the continued growth of public charter schools.  Charter schools are supported by tax dollars like any other public school, but run according to a charter that the school itself designs, spelling out its philosophy and goals. A public school board or state commission must approve the charter school, but then gets out of the way, except to hold the school to the terms and time limits of the renewable charter.

The schools vary widely, from the conventional to the unstructured. But all are distinguished from other public schools by two things: autonomy and direct legal accountability to the school’s families and staff. If the schools fail to meet their promised achievement goals, they can be closed.

According to the report:

Today, a record 14 communities have more
than 20 percent of their public school students
enrolled in public charter schools, eight more
than the number from just three years ago.
Additionally, 72 communities now have at
least 10 nercent of public school students in charter
schools, 27 more than three year ago. These
numbers illustrate that charter enrollment
growth remains strong.

4 comments Add your comment

Allen

October 29th, 2009
2:20 pm

“Charter schools are supported by tax dollars like any other public school” WRONG At least in Dekalb, charter schools get considreably less dollars per pupil than “any other public school” in addition to having to provide their own facilities.

Marie

October 29th, 2009
4:25 pm

I think in Cobb, charters are actually given their share of the state funding from the county. Actually, I think one of the reasons charters have been the relatively less controversial in Cobb is because the county has always tried to distribute resources equally among the different parts of the county so when schools become charters, it doesn’t really impact the funding levels for other schools in the district. I think when this is not the case (i.e. Gwinnett) then concerns over funding become much more salient.

Maureen Downey

October 29th, 2009
4:35 pm

Allen, Here is the info on charter funding from DOE:

The Georgia Charter Schools Act of 1998 states that a charter school shall be included in the allotment of funds to the local school system in which the charter school is located. The local board and state board shall treat the charter school no less favorably than other local schools in the school district with respect to the provision of funds for instructional and school administration, transportation, food services, and, where feasible, building programs. The amount of money the charter school will receive from the local board will be determined according to the provisions of the Charter Schools Act of 1998. In addition, the charter school will receive federal funds for special education services and for other categorical program services to the extent to which any pupil is in the charter school is eligible to participate. If additional revenues are needed, the charter school must depend on independent means. Commission charter schools will receive an amount determined by the commission for each student enrolled in a commission school equal to a proportional share of state and local revenue from the local school system in which the student attending the commission charter school resides.

The State Board of Education has created a facilities fund for charter schools to establish a per pupil, need based facilities aid program. The moneys from the fund can be used to purchase real property, construct school facilities, purchase or lease school facilities, purchase vehicles to transport students to and from the charter school, and renovate, repair, and maintain the school facilities. The Department of Education has specified procedures for submitting and approving requests for funding. Local boards are required to renovate, repair, and maintain the school facilities of charter schools in the district to the same extent as other public schools in the district if the local board owns the charter school facility. Prior to releasing moneys from the facilities fund, the DOE shall ensure that the governing board of the local charter school and the local board shall enter into a written agreement that includes a provision for the reversion of any unencumbered funds and all equipment and property purchased with public education funds to the ownership of the local board in the event the local charter school terminates operations. Each local board of education shall make its unused facilities available to local charter schools. The terms of the use of such a facility by the charter school shall be subject to negotiation between the board and the local charter school and shall be memorialized as a separate agreement. A local charter school that is allowed to use such a facility under such an agreement shall not sell or dispose of any interest in such property without the written permission of the local board. A local charter school may not be charged a rental or leasing fee for the existing facility or for property normally used by the public school which became the local charter school. A local charter school that receives property from a local board may not sell or dispose of such property without the written permission of the local board.

Allen

October 30th, 2009
9:48 am

Maureen–
You might want to actually speak to some charter school boards or principals in DeKalb and not rely on cut and pasting from DOE documents online.

In DeKalb charter schools do NOT receive the same amount of funding per child *from the county* as mainstream schools do: “The amount of money the charter school will receive from the local board will be determined according to the provisions of the Charter Schools Act of 1998″ apparently allows for this discrepancy in COUNTY funding, even if the state funding and Title 1 must be the same for charter and mainstream schools.

In addition, see the modifying clause here: “Local boards are required to renovate, repair, and maintain the school facilities of charter schools in the district to the same extent as other public schools in the district if the local board owns the charter school facility” If the school board does not own the facility–and DeKalb has been very careful not to allow use of closed school buildings by charters–the county is off the hook. DCSS has done this in part by proposing outrageous rent for these facilities, despite both “Each local board of education shall make its unused facilities available to local charter schools.” and especially “A local charter school may not be charged a rental or leasing fee for the existing facility or for property normally used by the public school which became the local charter school.”