The Coweta school board voted 6-1 today to deny the charter petition because of problems with the school’s facility, lack of transportation services and inadequate staff serving students with special needs.
You can read the county’s reasons here. Clearly, the system has found reasons to be concerned, including this issue: An analysis of this data clearly reflects that students in the Coweta County School System outperformed students in Coweta Charter Academy. Furthermore, Coweta Charter Academy did not meet its performance goal as agreed upon by Coweta Charter Academy, the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and the State Board of Education.
In a few minutes, the Cherokee school board will vote on the application of Cherokee Charter Academy, another Charter Schools USA partner school.
What makes these two charter schools different than most others in the state is that they are seeking to operate in counties with very high academic achievement. I understand that there are parents in Cherokee and Coweta who want to send their kids to these schools because they see them as a better fit, but they can’t cite failing schools as their reason. And that changes the debate, at least to me.
Both Coweta and Cherokee are among the 16 charter schools stranded by a state Supreme Court decision that the state cannot override local boards of education and establish local charter schools through its own commission.
The state commission had approved eight schools last year and eight new ones for this year; those schools can apply to the state Board of Education for consideration next week but they won’t collect any local taxes to operate, which, in most cases, is about half their funding.
Following its rejection today by the Coweta Board of Education, the Coweta Charter School issued the following statement:
Today is a sad and very disappointing day. The Coweta Board of Education has stolen education choice away from the people of Coweta. Instead of attempting to help students succeed, it has put money and power ahead of students and families. In Coweta Charter Academy’s inaugural year, CRCT test scores were very impressive. Our first graders were 100 percent proficient, second graders 97 percent and third graders 92 percent on their reading scores; 99 percent, 97 percent and 67 percent respectively in Math.
In third grade, 33 percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch and 25 percent of the students taking the test are special education students. All of this was accomplished in a rented church facility that housed 175 students. Imagine the impact we could have had in a new facility serving a larger population.
Demand was high for the school. There were 571 applications for the new expanded facility. By denying Coweta Charter Academy, a high-performing charter school, this board has not only destroyed our American freedom to choose, but has damaged the local economy even further. This decision eliminates 42 new positions that would have served the new school, sends 28 existing teachers and staff to the unemployment line, and causes serious negative economic impacts from the many supporting local services that would be needed to support the new school. Construction jobs, revenues from fresh food suppliers, utilities, printing and office supply retailers, advertising, bus gasoline, maintenance and repair; all have been eliminated as a result of this decision. That doesn’t even take into consideration the economic impact on restaurants and lodging associated with the building of the new school and frequent out-of-town visits.
Coweta has taken a huge step back and the students of our community will suffer. We can only hope that taxpayers will allow their rage to turn to a productive end that forces future legislation to be put into place that abolishes the ability of a competitor being the only authorizing authority for schools. Taxpayers should have the right to determine where their taxes go. The monopoly created by the current legislation makes it nearly impossible for competition that would raise the bar on education and allow our children to compete better in the future.
–From Maureen Downey for the AJC Get Schooled blog