Twenty charter school hopefuls find out fate this week

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

36 comments Add your comment

Larry Major

December 14th, 2010
4:54 am

This is exactly the way State Chartered Special Schools (Ivy Prep’s original charter) are funded now and we are in court because it was rejected by a certain segment of “charter school supporters.”

They could have asked the state for a local voter referendum to get local funding.

They could have asked the Legislature for additional state funding.

They could have petitioned the Legislature to change the Private School Tax Credit law to fund state approved charter schools, which would have kept both laws out of court.

They could have resolved this lawsuit out of court by agreeing to Paragraph G on page 14 of the original complaint, and funding Commission schools at the same rate as all other public schools.

It’s neither school officials nor the public that needs to be convinced of a reasonable resolution. It is very much adult politics at the expense of the kids.

GNGS

December 14th, 2010
5:30 am

It is about funding. It is also about control. If the state is allowed to do this (taking money away from local school district through a back door) and you will lose your local control of your school district. The state will be able to approve any charter school it pleases and to forcefully take money away from local school district. Without local control of finance, there will be no local control of school.

Jennifer

December 14th, 2010
8:19 am

The GCPS board also could have approved Ivy Preps charter initially which was supported by the vast majority of the community and had a sound plan, but instead was denied by board of education members who chose, in my opinion, to be ill informed and mislead by GCPS. Had the approval taken place, then this lawsuit would never have even been filed and none of this would be going on. Stories like this have happened to many independent start up charters across the state.

his has everything to do with local control which is often times better termed out out of control. There needs to be an oversight and funding process like the Commission.

[...] Twenty charter school hopefuls find out fate tomorrow | Get Schooled. [...]

HS Public Teacher

December 14th, 2010
8:53 am

With money becoming more tight everyone has to cut back to the essentials. This includes experiments with charter schools. Too few have really been successful to continue with this experiment. Sure, a charter school here or there has been good, but overall the charter school experiment in GA has been a flop.

Too many charter schools don’t make AYP. Too many charter schools go under after a couple of years.

This money being thrown at charter schools would be more efficiently used to improve public schools.

I am not talking about ‘the law’ and I am not talking about point fingers at any one. I am simply talking about fiscal responsibility and using public tax dollars most efficiently.

Dennis

December 14th, 2010
9:10 am

It is not the White House, the Congress, the Pentagon nor the corporations that are the backbone of this country. Public education is the backbone of this country and always has been. That goes for the economic backbone as well.

We have this mythical idea that only corporations create jobs and if only corporations could get a huge tax decrease then more public jobs would be created. However, that same tax money, if put into public education, would create just as many jobs if not more.

We need to spend public tax money for public things – like public education. Not give that tax money in the form of “tax breaks” to corporations only to see that tax money go into private pockets as it currently does.

Then watch the economy grow!

HS Public Teacher

December 14th, 2010
9:17 am

Also consider the amount of money spent on lawyers, etc. regarding this mess….. what a waste.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TheParentsEducator, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Twenty charter school hopefuls find out fate tomorrow http://bit.ly/fYPVi4 [...]

TopPublicSchool

December 14th, 2010
9:24 am

If neighborhood schools are running like private schools…they need to become “Charter Schools”

I consider a fax confirmation the proper documentation I need to report these issues to Governor Sonny Perdue’s before he leaves his office. Passing this open can of worms on to the next Governor is not acceptable. Investigators and those interested need to view the APS issues on Youtube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/TopSchoolAtlanta

I believe careful evaluation of the video on this site clearly explains why I would not have any faith in systems currently used to report corruption.

A “real” investigator needs to evaluate the information at : http://www.TopPublicSchoolCorruptionAtlanta.com
The current governor needs to address all the issues reported to his team of investigators.
Namely possible APS misuse of public funds, possible discrimination and segregation of Atlanta’s Northside schools, all issues dealing with the falsification of documents during an investigation at Warren T. Jackson Elementary and the administrators and employees involved in the cover-up of those actions. Avoiding these reports and not addressing them is not what Perdue’s open investigation was designed accomplish.

ALL Corruption needs to be addressed …including the corruption in the Governor’s Neighborhood.
Warren T. Jackson Elementary School
Dodging this issue is not ethically the right thing to do…even if you are leaving office.

Any additional supportive documentation is posted on the Youtube channels below:

Concealing Segregation/APS/Jackson Elementary
http://www.youtube.com/user/TopSchoolAtlanta#p/u

Blatant Student Discrimination/Jackson/APS Leadership
http://www.youtube.com/user/TopSchoolAtlanta#p/u/5/0tCFMSuQBTQ

A “FAKE” Reorganization Plan
http://www.youtube.com/user/TopSchoolAtlanta#p/u/38/IwIljqwesMc

The BIG LIE “Reorganization Plan”
http://www.youtube.com/user/TopSchoolAtlanta#p/u/10/jbf-BeZsqas

Concerned citizens need to contact the governor’s office and demand he address ALL concerns with APS. or make all schools in APS Charter Schools.

GNGS

December 14th, 2010
9:39 am

“(T)his has everything to do with local control which is often times better termed out out of control. There needs to be an oversight and funding process like the Commission.”

Even in the state of Georgia, there is election. If you do not like decisions your local BOE makes, get rid of them. If their decisions break laws, sue them. If every effort fails and you do not get your way with your local BOE, move to a place with one you like. Having a commission like the Georgia Charter Schools Commission with the power to take money out of local school is destructive to local control of school.

Many people believe the governor-elect and his cohorts are out of control. Can they ask federal government to set up a separate “charter” government for them and direct all federal dollars as well as state taxes (through a back door, of course) to this “charter” government?

Just wondering

December 14th, 2010
11:22 am

With Fulton County looking to become the largest system in the state to convert to charter status, how will that affect the delivery of education in such a diverse county.

[...] Twenty charter school hopefuls find out fate this weekAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)The performance of Denver's charter schoolsEducation News Colorado (blog)FayObserver.com -Albany Times Unionall 13 news articles » [...]

Fire Bad Teachers

December 14th, 2010
4:48 pm

This discussion should be about the children and not the money. Charters are not costing school districts additional money. If 100 children in a county enroll in a charter, the school they left no longer has the expense of educating and transporting those students. Why should that school recieve a windfall when 100 students leave for another option? If the old school no longer needs three teachers, the new charter will certainly be hiring teachers. The impact on overall school employeement should be almost neutral.

Parents don’t leave great schools for new, unproven charter schools.

Charter Schools are PUBLIC Schools

December 14th, 2010
4:58 pm

@HS Public Teacher @8:53 AM
“This money being thrown at charter schools would be more efficiently used to improve public schools.”

Umm, to quote my own name, Charter Schools are PUBLIC schools.

Jennifer

December 14th, 2010
6:53 pm

“Even in the state of Georgia, there is election. If you do not like decisions your local BOE makes, get rid of them. If their decisions break laws, sue them. If every effort fails and you do not get your way with your local BOE, move to a place with one you like.”

Problem with your logic is that it takes many moons to get rid of a “majority” of the local BOE because of the rolling terms of office. In the time it would have taken to remove a “majority” through the election process – entire grades of students would have lost their entire middle school and part of high school careers. Who has funds to sue ? Who has funds to move ? These are kids lives we are talking about. They don’t get those years back.

Keep in mind one of our school board members has been seated for almost 40 years!

Larry Major

December 14th, 2010
8:23 pm

@FBT – state and federal funding is enrollment based, so the funding goes to the school the kids actually attend. If 100 kids enroll in a charter school, the charter school gets the funding for these 100 kids, not the school they left. The problem is, the Commission is taking state funding away from kids who attend GCPS and giving it to Ivy Prep – over $1 million a year.

@Jennifer – voters can override a BOEs charter denial without changing board members. A state charted school gets full state and federal funding and, if the majority of local voters approved, it would get full local funding. If Ivy Prep really had the support of the majority of Gwinnett voters, the local referendum would have passed and Ivy Prep would have been funded as if the BOE had approved it – and there would be no lawsuit.

Why didn’t Ivy Prep let voters decide?

Fire Bad Teachers

December 14th, 2010
9:47 pm

I know of a few public charter schools in Georgia which only receive the state and federal portion of funding. The public schools the charter students left keep the local portion, it is not passed on to the charter.
As for Ivy Prep, why does it matter is GCPS or the charter is receiving the money to educate the students? If the schools are making AYP and the students are learning, I don’t understand why it matters where the money is being spent. Is Ivy Prep getting more per pupil than GCPS or are the students just recieving the same share they would in a GCPS?

Larry Major

December 15th, 2010
4:22 am

@FBT, the only charter schools that do not by law receive local funding are state approved schools (Commission Schools and State Chartered Special Schools), which require local voters’ approval for local funding. Since only about six of the 100 charter schools in GA are state schools, you might want to independently verify your source’s information on the charter schools you mentioned. The state DOE has a list on their web site, which appears to be current.

Under the contested law, the Commission is authorized to skip the local voter referendum, calculate the amount of local funding a Commission school would receive had voters approved it, and give that amount to the Commission school. They get the money to do this by deducting it from the state funding earned by kids who still attend the host school system.

What actually sparked the lawsuit is that the Commission didn’t use existing funding law to calculate this amount; they simply took a system average, which includes considerable extra funding for Special Ed kids. Since Ivy Prep’s student body has much lower percentage of Special Ed kids as compared to GCPS, the amount they deducted from GCPS was much more that GCPS would have spent on these kids had they attended their local schools. Here are the exact numbers at the time the lawsuit was filed:

* 216 of Ivy Prep’s students lived in Gwinnett and could have attended their home (GCPS) school or another charter school.

* Any other charter school with these exact 216 kids would have received a total of $547,814 in local funding – the amount GCPS would have spent on these kids had they attended their home school.

* Because the Commission’s calculation included Special Ed funding these specific 216 didn’t earn, they deducted $849,994 from GCPS – over $302,000 more that would have been spent on these kids had they attended any other public school in Gwinnett.

To answer your question, yes – Ivy Prep received $302k more in funding than any other public school in GA would have received for their students; consequently GCPS received $302k less than any other school system in GA would have received for their students.

This year, Ivy Prep’s enrollment is down slightly but the amount the Commission deducted from GCPS ballooned from $850k to nearly $1.2 million – again, because the Commission is authorized to invent their own funding numbers.

Also, remember these dollar amounts are for one small school and the appointed Commission can approve as many schools as they want, anywhere they want and fund them in any amount they want. The lawsuit wasn’t based on one year’s funding, but on the potentially huge amount of inequitable future funding.

Allen

December 15th, 2010
9:15 am

To clarify one thing Mr. Major said: “If 100 kids enroll in a charter school, the charter school gets the funding for these 100 kids, not the school they left.” I don’t know if it’s different for ’state’ charters, but for most charters (maybe it’s just DeKalb)this is a misleading statement, as charters get 80-something cents on the dollar for the kids moved from the mainline (public) school to the charter (public!) school.

Charterstarter, Too

December 15th, 2010
9:47 am

Mr. Major, you are grossly uninformed (although it is obvious you have some knowledge of the issue – it’s not complete, nor is it accurate). I would love for you to sit down and actually do the per pupil comparison of the Commission schools with their traditional school counterparts. I think you’d be shocked at how very wrong you are. The Commission schools are underfunded by hundreds of thousands of dollars in comparison.,, in fact, to drive home my point, check out the AJC article today on the funding. One might ponder why the calculations were not considered and resolved by the FBO BEFORE Ivy and others opened…and BEFORE the schools grew. The FBO certainly knew they had a “different animal” to fund with the Commission schools well in advance of their opening (8 months to be exact.). And certainly, the FBO had the numbers well in advance of drafting the current year budget – the growth plan was in the charter petition. Someone dropped the ball in a major, major way. And of course, when folks don’t do their job, others end up with a mess – and in this case, it’s the kids that are impacted. But nobody cares about that…as long as “local control” is maintained and the states “processes” remain status quo. Heaven forbid somebody actually be proactive or think outside the box.

And in response to your comment about why this and why that….I have a few “whys” myself. WHY did the local school districts not get actively involved when the legislation was drafted? The School Boards Association did not keep their constituents informed well enough and clearly did not prepare them in advance for the outcomes of the legislation. They’ll tell you differently – but one must wonder. Again, someone dropped the ball. And it wasn’t the charter community.

Charters are doing their job of raising student achievement and meeting their obligations. It’s not about the money and it’s not about the power – it’s about doing what it takes to make kids learn. Until our government officials, school boards, and state officials make the very, very tough decision to put the kids first and throw the status quo and politics out the window, we will never see improvements in education in Georgia.

sad

December 15th, 2010
6:39 pm

@HS Public Teacher, you say, “Sure, a charter school here or there has been good, but overall the charter school experiment in GA has been a flop. Too many charter schools don’t make AYP. Too many charter schools go under after a couple of years.”

Isn’t that a benefit of public charter schools? They are experiments in public eduction. The successful ones continue and the failed ones are closed down. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. Maybe if underperforming county schools had a similar incentive to succeed or be shut down (i.e. the admins’ and teachers’ jobs are at stake), we would see some innovation in these schools.

Larry Major

December 16th, 2010
1:33 am

For the record, the figures in my post are from state records and statements filed with the court under oath. Court documents for this case are available to the public at: http://www.cpoga.org/litigation.html

The motion for summary judgment contains a description of the “average” funding method used by the Commission, written by Ivy Prep’s attorney.

Those who think the DOE, Courts, plaintiffs, defendants, and attorneys for both sides are all “grossly uninformed” because these facts are not in dispute will invent whatever position they please as will anyone willing to take the word of an anonymous poster with an agenda over court documents and state records.

It’s also interesting to note that the “average” funding calculation will result in underfunding kids who attend a Commission school, if Special Ed kids make up an atypically high percentage of the student body. The point about underfunding kids with special needs was not raised by Commission School supporters who claim to care so much about kids, but by Gwinnett’s attorney. That should tell you something about who is interested in what.

Patrick Crabtree

December 16th, 2010
6:27 am

The state should not supercede local autonomy. If the local boards refuse a charter, then why should state override this decision. What is a local board there for? Are you willing to give up your autonomy?

Patrick Crabtree

December 16th, 2010
6:35 am

Public chater schools are only PUBLIC in NAME. Someone is profiting and decisions in these schools are taken away from the electorate. Parents are willing to pay for fees, books, etc. on what charters ask them, but they won’t pay any extra in in public. If they are public, BY LAW, they cannot ask the parents for any money, unless the classes are elective. These are still FREE and that means parents can demand the schools have to pay for all supplies. Check out the law. Why are these parents willing to pay in charters, but don’t want to pay in PUBLIC? They are trying to be exclusive, bottom line.

sad

December 16th, 2010
9:47 am

Patrick, it must be different where you live, but our local county schools are constantly asking for money, and we are happy to help when we can. The sad fact is that most schools don’t have enough money for all the supplies they want/need, and so must either ask for money or go without.

Charter Schools are PUBLIC Schools

December 16th, 2010
11:15 am

@Patrick Crabtree 6:27 AM
You stated “[p]ublic chater schools are only PUBLIC in NAME”

You are simply incorrect. Charter schools are PUBLIC schools in actuality. Every student there is a PUBLIC school student and is held to the same standards and expectations as all other public school students (unless the approved charter explicitly states otherwise).

For example, any student residing in Fulton County can attend any Fulton County Public Charter School instead of their locally zoned public school if space is available or they can add their name to the lottery list if space is limited.

There is no cost to attend a PUBLIC charter school. By the way, there is no such thing as a private charter school.

It appears many people are still completely mixing up public charter schools with private school vouchers.

Voucher = money sent to a private school
Charter = Public school

CharterStarter, Too

December 16th, 2010
9:44 pm

@ Larry, the way the funding is supposed to work for Commission charters (per the statute) and what is actually occurring are two entirely different things. I’ve asked you to go and do the comparison for yourself – you won’t, of course, but you should. Then you can ask yourself why a charter school child has less “worth” placed on their education than a traditional public school student does. Keeping in mind that they are BOTH public schools. Because that’s what this all boils down to – that “local autonomy” is more important than doing what’s right and equitable for kids- hard decisions, inconvenient, but right. I cannot for the life of me see how anybody could argue otherwise.

Larry Major

December 18th, 2010
3:21 am

“the way the funding is supposed to work for Commission charters (per the statute) and what is actually occurring are two entirely different things.”

I have heard similar remarks from people who were involved when this legislation was enacted.

Please understand the Commission is NOT violating any law; they are operating just as the law, as it was passed, permits. As I pointed out in my first post, the Commission could have stopped this issue before it went to court by agreeing to fund their schools the same as all other public schools, and they refused. It is my firm opinion that some shyster political types took advantage of well-intentioned people and tricked them into supporting some things they didn’t want. The law isn’t what you wanted and the Commission isn’t doing what you wanted, so what I’m really wondering is why you oppose this legal action since, at this point, there is no other way to correct it.

QBE funding is the same for all public schools and I am quite familiar with OCGA 20-2-2068.1, which is the law requiring equitable local funding for charter schools. I see nothing wrong, but you evidently do, so be specific. You have obviously studied this, so tell me where to find the results of this study.

If it isn’t published anywhere, send it to me and I’ll publish it on the CPOG web site, provided it’s factually accurate and properly sourced. If you can keep it completely factual and free from opinion, I’ll put it on the litigation page with the other documents – otherwise it will have to go in on a page where others can post their opinions.

Charterstarter, Too

December 18th, 2010
3:46 pm

@ Larry, the statute is really (on the whole) not the issue. The statute is quite clear about equity of funding and even how it is to be calculated. The issue is with the processes of the Financial Business Office, their erroneous intrepretation of the provisions in the law(s) and their lack of compliance with these provisions – the Commission charters (and indeed, some of the district approved charters as well) are not getting certain provisions clearly articulated in both of charter school statutes. This is due to a number of factors with the main issue being “forward funding” and the fact that no provision was made in the budget to fund schools per the law (even though the data required to do that was provided in plenty of time). As I stated, no one in the FBO planned ahead for either the district approved charters when they came along and now the Commission charters – and both (but most especially the Commission schools) are serving students now at far less than the law provides for them as “equitable”.

As for the article you posted on the CPOG website related to Commission funding, I want to make a note here about the implication that districts are so “damaged” and unsure of loss of revenue. First, they can clearly calculate what they will no longer receive in funding – it’s in the statute (plus they get to keep the funds from students they served last year.) Interstingly, they could calculate it for the lawsuit. Secondly, the Gwinnett Co. budget is millions and millions of dollars. I fail to see how loss of 100 or so kids they no longer serve could make or break them; however, loss of the funding that Ivy should receive for the students they DO serve COULD make or break them.

As I stated, I highly recommend you select a few of the Commission schools and find out exactly what they have been funded (you can look on the pay advices on the state’s website). Do an apples to apples comparison of like programs between the Commission schools and the traditional schools and you will find a DRAMATIC difference in per pupil funding. No one in the charter sector expects that it will be a dollar to dollar comparison – there are factors that will cause some fluctuations, but the gap should not be as substantial as it is. To my point, if you look at how Ivy and CCAT ended up being funded last year, you will find upon a per pupil comparison, they were still below the districts, however, they didn’t squawk – the calculation was fair. If you see how they are currently being funded, you’ll see a substantial difference in not only the funding they are getting this year (considering the students they serve), but also with how the newly approved schools are funded. Your argument about the manner in which the funding was calculated would be just fine if the end result of a per pupil comparison was close to equitable, but unfortunately, it’s just not (as I hope you will discover for yourself). Interestingly, it’s not just in the “equivalent local funding” portion, but also in what they are getting funded for in QBE funds. And for the record, I’m pretty certain it wasn’t the Commission who created the new calculation, but the FBO.

There are several issues at play that need to be addressed. This is not a new problem and it is finally getting some attention from people who can fix the issues. The charter sector has long accepted sub-par treatment related to a number of factors (funding being top of the list), but the schools now have several years of demonstrated academic achievement and the movement is growing. The public is more aware and more supportive of chartering as a reform initiative and not THE answer to improving our educational system, but certainly a critical component. Folks in the charter sector are also getting smarter about how this crazy bureaucratic educational system works and now understand the stakes involved. I do not think the charter sector is going to stand for sub-par treatment for much longer – the kids deserve better and so do the tax payers.

The charter sector has pushed for 2 things all along: 1) A fair (rigorous, but transparent) process to authorize new schools that includes accoutability for reauthorization 2) Funding for charter school students that is commensurate with other public school students. Neither of these things are unreasonable, it is just complicated because some folks don’t like that there is sometimes a cost (investment) in growth and change.

Sorry for the length but I appreciate your interest in the topic.

Larry Major

December 19th, 2010
4:34 am

Let’s dispatch the ducks first.

Using “damage” and some other words is legal stuff, not a practical matter. If I cheat you out of $20, it has no real-world effect on your life but, from a legal standpoint, you could recover “damages” from me. That’s not really an accurate legal description, but that’s the general idea – it’s simply legal jargon.

One small school the size of Ivy Prep has no dramatic effect on GCPS funding or enrollment, but like I said before, this isn’t about one school it’s about the law. If 50 or 100 Commission schools show up, it would make a dramatic difference. This brings us to the more involved issues.

Not that this is the main issue, but I can see a couple reasons GCPS wouldn’t be able to calculate the Commission deduction ahead of time. First, how would GCPS know how many kids enrolled in Ivy Prep? GCPS has no way of knowing how many families moved to (or out of) Gwinnett over the summer until they get enrollment numbers. Even if the families lived here, the kids may not have attended public school, and if they did, GCPS has no way of knowing why they didn’t enroll for the current year. Also, the Commission’s calculations appeared to have changed. In FY2010, 211 of the 300 Ivy Prep students lived in Gwinnett and the Commission deduction for these 211 was 849,994. In FY2011, Ivy Prep’s total FTE dropped to 287 and Gwinnett’s Commission deduction increased to 1,195,705. The reason for this is knowable and under the circumstances I didn’t dig into it, but even if every one of Ivy Prep’s students lives in Gwinnett, the numbers don’t fit last year’s calculation method.

Concerning QBE funding, I did look at it and still don’t see any difference.

Comparing middle grade funding for GCPS and Ivy Prep, the (student) per capita operating funding is 55, the same for both. The per capita salary funding is higher for GCPS (3145 compared to 2261), but this entire difference is the result of dramatic differences in the T&E factor, which is 46.3523 for GCPS and 5.18 for Ivy Prep. Backing out the T&E, the salary funding for both is identical. T&E is statewide, not specific to charter schools, and if the actual teachers were identical, Ivy Prep’s salary funding would be the same as GCPS.

If the forward funding you mentioned is the spring adjustment, this too is the same for all public schools. Yes, it has a dramatic, possibly fatal, effect on small schools with exponential growth, but this requires a legislative fix and isn’t the result of charter schools being treated differently than any other school.

What, specifically, am I missing?

Charterstarter, Too

December 19th, 2010
10:58 am

Thanks very much for the response, Mr. Major. Let me see if I can address your points.

First, the districts have no way to judge who’s coming and going every year into the district, so there is really no major difference in budgeting – you go with your average trends and watch demographic changes in the district. Ivy had their growth plan in their charter (which was on the state website), so the projected numbers were there for everyone to use for calculations.

So glad you’re getting to the root of the issues and really looking (thank you – breath of fresh air). For a school like Ivy, their major issues (now) are with growth and the forward funding mechanism. The Commission Act (and Charter Schools Act, too) clearly states that they will be funded for their actual or projected enrollment, and there is even a provision in there for growing (i.e., a grade level was explicitly listed). The legislation IS in place to address forward funding. Ivy is currently serving 460 students…and they are being funded on 282 kids (you know the math – that’s a ton of money). The state was supposed to do a headcount the beginning of the year – didn’t happen. When the Oct. FTE count came around, Ivy thought perhaps that would remedy it…but it’s now mid December and 2 funding drops later there is no adjustment. Why is that?

In addition, last year, the calculation was TOTALLY different for Ivy and CCAT. This year, without notice, the funding calculation changed and the impact was to the negative for ALL the Commission schools. As I mentioned, at the end of the year last year, the schools were close to whole – not quite, but certainly close enough. Now, they are way off again. Why the change in the calculation? Why no notice so the schools could prepare?

Take a look at a few of the new schools – in particular, Patuala. Patuala is dealing with more than a $1200 difference per pupil in their funding level. The new Commission schools are dealing with brand new issues – not just with how the local share is calculated, but with the QBE earnings and components of it. And I can almost bet they’ll be dealing with the same growth issues NEXT year that Ivy is dealing with if this isn’t addressed now. Go look again at a couple of the newer schools and compare them to their district(s)’ per pupil averages (comparing apples to apples in programming) and let’s chat again. See if you can find what they are NOT getting.

As for the Commission – it is obvious after 2 rounds of authorizations – that the Commission is not going to allow a bunch of schools lacking quality plans to open. They are being very rigorous, but also very transparent. Having the Commission just leveled the playing field for the petitioners, which was needed. Districts can still authorize quality schools locally. And, they can choose to trust the Commission’s process (like they expect everyone to trust theirs).

Again, we’re just looking for fair here. No one is trying to stick it to the districts – we’re all on the same team just doing what we can to best educate kids.

Charterstarter, Too

December 19th, 2010
11:20 am

@ Mr. Major – and in case you are wondering where I got the 460 from, it’s listed under the Data collections reporting menu for the Oct. FTE count. Ivy is actually listed on there twice – you’ll have to look under Commission Schools – Ivy Prep to see the numbers. They are not serving 280 kids anymore and haven’t since the school year began.

Larry Major

December 19th, 2010
3:06 pm

Let’s get a baseline.

Other than the FTE discrepancy and 5 mill buy-in (which I don’t want to get into just now), you see nothing in QBE formulas for salary, operating or T&E where charter schools are treated differently than any other public schools – is that correct?

Which calculation changed from last year? If you mean the way the Commission determined the local funding number, I don’t care about that, but it it’s something else please tell me which calculation changed between what fiscal years.

You will be delighted to know I’ve had my fill of conflicting stories about this FTE count. I’ve read several places where Ivy Prep has 400 to 600 students, but only gets funding for less than 300. Back in August, when I asked why the Commission deduction wasn’t on the QBE sheets, Lou Erste told me they were waiting for Ivy Prep to open so they could get an accurate student count – and now you tell me it didn’t happen. This isn’t rocket science and there’s no reason for the confusion surrounding this issue… so, I’m going to fix it.

It will take a week, probably longer with the holidays, but I will get the forms Ivy Prep filed, follow these numbers through the entire process, and be able to tell you in painful detail why the FTE count appears as it does.

Charterstarter, Too

December 19th, 2010
5:48 pm

@ Larry, Wow, this is really a pleasant surprise – someone who cares that there’s a problem and wants to fix it lickety split! I’m in agreement – it’s not rocket science and never has been. What it IS is a lot of political hullabaloo that needn’t be present. The schools have had their focus totally taken away from their main mission for months because of the worry about the revenue.

Ok., so getting to the baseline…

1. The statute (as I see it) on the whole is equitable in the areas you mentioned – not perfect, but if applied correctly, pretty darn close.

2. But as I said, what the statute provides for and what is occurring in actuality are not the same. The newer Commission charters, for example, are getting no T&E. No categorical grants. No equalization. And every single child is still being funded as a regular education student. Have you had a chance to go and pull the pay advices, run the numbers, and do the comparisons? I’m very interested to hear back from you on this.

3. Ivy and CCAT’s numbers were in their charter petition. They also provided their numbers (after their enrollment period) to the DOE last Spring (as did the new schools), and they were asked again for the numbers again towards the first of the year. The DOE had the info. to fund them correctly when school began. If you think about it, a headcount is sort of senseless when the Oct. count will equalize things if they under or over estimated. It’s also useless if they only count butts in seats and not students served in the various programs since the funding will be wrong and have to be adjusted anyway. Even if the headcount (which was originally intended to both confirm and expedite) didn’t occur, by October, the numbers were confirmed through the FTE count. Still, no adjustment.

4. Last year, the calculation afer Ivy and CCAT were approved was established and they were happy enough with the funding level. That calculation changed when the schools got their first drop this year. The 5 mill share is a major part of the issue with the difference in funding from last year to this year. I won’t debate on this too much, but suffice it to say that the statute says the schools will receive QBE EARNINGS, not state funds after 5 mill share. It’s bad enough they changed the calculation, but even worse that they didn’t have the decency to let any of the schools know so that they could prepare for the HUGE hit to their budgets….on top of the other funds they were due and not getting. Inexcusable.

5. As for Ivy’s numbers, there has really been no change other than they added kids this year. As you know, the March count has been on the DOE site for some time. Of course, numbers for the Oct. count have been up only a short while, but the school would have been happy to confirm the number of students they served…plus, the DOE had that number as well since the Spring and then again in July or August (had to have it to calculate the funding). I’m glad you got your answer confirmed now.

6. The FBO keeps saying it’s a “legislative issue.” Well, I’ve read (with an attorney) both statutes and the QBE statute, and we haven’t been able to find what the heck they can be talking about to justify this nonsense. The Commission Act and Charter Schools Act seem clear as a bell – and obviously the intent of the legislature was to provide equitable funding for students. I’d love it if you could get to the bottom of that claim. I’ll admit I’m wrong if someone (preferably an attorney) can show it to me – but so far no one has.

The schools have been told that the issues with their funding were on the way to being fixed and that would probably happen in January – it has taken a lot of levers being pulled to get the balls even rolling. As you saw from the article the other day, some legislators had to get involved. I am very hopeful for them all that this actually occurs – the schools have heard this song and dance for months, and to be frank, will believe it when they see it.

Aside from fixing the underfunded operational schools, what needs to happen is that the delays and discrepancies in the funding calculations should be fixed for good. The new Commission charters just authorized should not have these same issues that have been problematic (and known) for 2 years. What also needs to happen is that the district approved schools should also not experience these issues as some of them are, so it needs to be fixed for them as well.

Thank you for your sincere interest in righting wrongs that impact kids. Even though you disagree in principle with some charter matters, it is obvious you are an individual with strong values.

Larry Major

December 19th, 2010
7:17 pm

Yeah, the first year the FTE is an agreed-upon SWAG since there’s no history, but Ivy Prep shouldn’t have been in that situation as a Commission school, since they had an enrollment history as a State Special Charter School and “new” shouldn’t have applied. There are a couple code sections from which Commission schools are exempt and I think they’re the ones about using the weighted FTE averages, but I’ll check that later.

Before doing anything else, I’m going to follow Ivy Prep’s paperwork through the mill to learn who does what and when. After becoming familiar with the processes and terminology at each level, I’ll know exactly where to look and who to contact about QBE concerns at other schools.

Charterstarter, Too

December 19th, 2010
7:31 pm

Great! We’ve got lots of people working on this – I’m absolutely sure the FBO is mightily tired of hearing everyone squawking about it. Hopefully somebody will have some luck getting resolution. Soon.

I’m interested about your comment on the code sections. Seems like the Commission statute would be in direct conflict of that since it so explicitly addresses forward funding. Looking forward to hearing about this!

One more thing – the first year, even without history, should not be an issue. They CAN do things manually…