Twenty charter school applicants find out this week if the Georgia Charter Schools Commission will approve them.
I posted earlier on the pending state Supreme Court decision as to whether the Georgia Charter Schools Commission is constitutional. A Fulton judge has ruled that the commission is constitutional, but the school districts appealed to the high court. Seven schools systems are challenging the Georgia Charter Schools Commission because of the power it has to not only allot state dollars to charter schools, but also local dollars.
The law used to limit state-approved charter schools to state funds. Created by the Legislature in 2008, the charter schools commission was empowered to approve charter schools and to redirect funds so that these new schools get the equivalent of both local and state per pupil dollars.
The Supreme Court is evaluating the legal somersaults involved in the law.
In a quickie explanation, the state withholds state education funding from a local system where a commission charter school has been approved. The state then sends that proportional local share amount to the charter schools, along with the state dollars.
Our blog discussion led to this e-mail from a reader that I wanted to share as I think it raises a good point: The Legislature could fund all charter schools with state dollars, and not involve local funding in any way, direct or indirect. State funding would prevent charter school operators from locating their schools only in those counties that spend big dollars on education, which tend to be in the metro area.
Under the law as it stands now, there’s no motivation for charter schools — many of which are not mom and pop start-ups but national franchises — to open in poor counties where the local education funding is low.
Here are the reader’s comments on this:
If the state wanted more charters, it could create a special charter innovation fund and support charters around the state.The fact is undeniable that the Georgia commission law reduces funding to local districts in exact proportion to local dollars they expend.
The real story is the dramatic underfunding of education by the State of Georgia. I did not realize the Georgia Chamber filed an amicus brief. You will not see the Georgia Chamber pushing for more education funding by the state nor advocating as hard for teacher quality as it does for tort reform.
The state wants charter schools but does not want to pay for them. Those who paint this debate as pro/con charter school are missing it. It’s a funding problem. As you know, the state severely cut education funding and this even takes more money out of the pot.
If the state truly wanted to promote charter schools and competition, it should create the Charter Innovation Fund. This way, it could help fund charters anywhere in the state, including rural areas that have low local share. Ironically, the state charter commission law incents charters in districts that have a high local share contribution. The state could also truly champion competition, and especially target low performing districts. This is just smoke and mirrors. More adult politics at the expense of the kids.
– By Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog