Ivy Preparatory Academy has declined the Gwinnett school board’s offer to grant the all-girl charter school a one-year contract because of concerns over funding and loss of autonomy.
Ivy Prep is one of 16 schools whose operating contracts were thrown out when the state Supreme Court ruled that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission was illegal. Some of those schools are seeking to remain open by asking local systems to “adopt” them, while others are appealing for state Board of Education approval.
The state route is the more surefire one, but it also brings less funding. If approved by the state Board of Education, the affected charters lose their local dollars, which account for about half their funding.
I am in Savannah for the Georgia School Boards Association conference so I did not attend the Gwinnett board meeting tonight, and am seeing two slightly different accounts of what led Gilbert to her decision.
According to the AJC:
Ivy Prep’s head of school, Nina Gilbert, made the decision, citing frustration with the process and negotiations with the Gwinnett school system. The charter school for 600 girls will instead apply to be a state charter special school, which will cut its budget in half.Gwinnett Schools’ per-pupil funding is $7,549. Gilbert said the district was offering her considerably less than that and less than she received as a school authorized by the defunct Georgia Charter Schools Commission.
“It is not our intention to reject your offer to accommodate us,” she said. “Even though we will receive less funding as a state charter special school, we believe the freedom and the autonomy to provide an instructional program that is both innovative and supportive we will have as a state school is the most promising path for our school and our students.”
The Georgia Charter Schools Association issued a statement about Gilbert’s decision that suggests she turned down Gwinnett’s offer because she didn’t want to have to reject non-Gwinnett students.
Under its previous status as a commission charter school, Ivy Prep could take students from the metro area, and receive the local funds from each sending system. It was not clear how the school could have continued to enroll students outside of Gwinnett if county taxpayers were footing half the bill.
So, this is what the charter schools association said:
“While we know that this was a tough decision and the road ahead for Ivy Prep will be tough, we support the school’s decision to seek the approval and oversight of the State Department of Education rather than Gwinnett County Board of Education,” said Georgia Charter Schools Association President and CEO Tony Roberts.
“Nina and her administrators, faculty, staff and board members refuse to turn their backs on the great many students from Dekalb and other jurisdictions that choose to come to Ivy Prep, supplying their own transportation, in order to receive a quality education. Also, she feared that the school would not have the autonomy that has allowed the high level of innovation and performance the school has fostered up to this point. The freedom to be innovative and creative with your instructional program is at the very soul of charter schools. We believe that the school’s decision reflects their overarching commitment to put the needs of its students at the center of the entire debate,” said Roberts.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog