Breaking news: State will kick in extra bucks to support charter schools stranded by Supreme Court ruling

UPDATE at 4:55. The governor’s office says now Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Erin Hames will call me about this. I will post her comments shortly after we talk.  (I wrote up a separate post on her comments. See them here.)

UPDATED at 4:39 p.m. with info from governor’s office and release from one of the affected schools:

After all the angst, the state now plans to make up the difference in costs for the charter schools affected by the state Supreme Court ruling that the state Charter Schools Commission was illegal.

A rescue line has been thrown to Odyssey School in Newnan, Atlanta Heights Charter in Atlanta, Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology in Statesboro, Cherokee Charter Academy in Canton, Coweta Charter Academy in Senoia, Fulton Leadership Academy in south Fulton County, Heritage Preparatory Academy in Atlanta and Pataula Charter Academy in Edison. (Not getting state funding are the two commission schools that already won local approval, Museum School of Avondale and Ivy Prep of Gwinnett.)

The state intends to fund these bricks-and-mortar state-chartered special schools for an amount equal to the average local share in their attendance zones.This will bring state-chartered special school revenues to the same amount they would have received as Commission schools. I have now talked to DOE — they know no details of this bailout plan — and the governor’s office, which told me a few extraordinary things about the source of this money.

Namely, the governor is still looking for sources of the funding, which was estimated at a Senate hearing to be around $10 million for the 2011-12 year for the schools.

The governor’s office told me it “doesn’t have a pot of money to specifically point out” as the source of this bailout.  “We are working to identify funds within state government and those funds will be in the supplemental budget,” said spokeswoman Jen Talaber.

So, I asked: Is it correct to say that Gov. Deal has committed the money but has no idea where he is going to find it?”

Her response: “I wouldn’t say that.”

She also told me that the governor did not consider the academic performance of the schools in his decision to fund them. Not all the charters already in operation posted strong scores this year, and at least one is performing well below its district average. (I plan to write about the schools’ performance in the next few days.)

Of the 15,644 students in the charters affected by the Supreme Court ruling, 10,000 of them would be taking classes virtually through online schools.  One virtual school is operating, the Georgia Cyber Academy, and two were due to open this fall.

So, in terms of brick and mortar schools, their enrollments represented only a third of the affected students. Two-thirds of the impacted students are online students.

Charter schools receive public funds to operate under a board-approved charter, or contract, that spells out a plan for improving student achievement and provides benchmarks for measuring this improvement on a five-year time line. Up until two years ago, school boards in Georgia had primary power to veto or promote charter schools, but lawmakers felt that the school boards were hostile to charter schools and turned down strong applicants.

So, the General Assembly created a commission that not only could approve charters, but redirect monies so that the schools receive their share of local dollars. In its brief tenure, the commission approved 16 schools, eight of which are due to open this year. The commission was disbanded after the Supreme Court decision, leaving the commission-created schools in both legal and financial limbo.

The state Board of Education can approve charter schools that were rejected by local boards, but those schools get only state money, no local funding. Consider that local systems provide on average about 45 percent of what it now costs to educate a child. So, it’s a dramatic drop if a charter school loses its local dollars. Without that local funding, commission charter schools either had to find other sources of money or dramatically cut services.

The state’s bailout has considerably brightened their prospects and their bottom lines.

Here is an official release from one of the schools:

Georgia Charter Education Foundation received official notice today that the state will provide the money needed to bridge the funding gap for its two schools along with nine other schools that were originally approved by the Georgia Charter Commission. The Commission’s approval was later found by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional. After receiving subsequent approval to open by the Department of Education (DOE), the schools’ futures remained uncertain since the funding provided by the DOE fell short of that which was needed to move forward. Today’s announcement allows all eleven schools to open this fall.

“This is amazing news,” said Lyn Carden of the GCEF. “Through the collaborative efforts of Governor Deal’s office, Chip Rogers’ office and the office of State Superintendent, John Barge, we are now able to offer education choice to students in Cherokee and Coweta. We couldn’t be happier to announce this wonderful news.”

The GCEF governs two schools in Georgia, Coweta Charter Academy and Cherokee Charter Academy. Coweta has been open for a year. Parents are urged now to complete and mail-in registration packets and to check the schools’ web sites often for updates.

“One of our challenges now is to keep everyone informed with accurate information,” added Carden. “We will continually update the websites and send emails to registered parents as well as inform the media of significant news.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

178 comments Add your comment

in the affirmative, get action!

July 14th, 2011
2:22 pm

What does the NAACP say about this? Until they tell us the correct response, we should all stay silent.

Same thing on the ATL’s growing minority, teen, youth, African American gang problem. Until the NAACP responds, just keep our mouths shut.

Same on Beverly Hall’s bonus.

Active in Cherokee

July 14th, 2011
2:23 pm

“More later on the source of these millions necessary to pay these bills” – That will be the interesting part of the story!

Does the state not see that sometimes (as is the case in Cherokee Co.) these schools were not turned down solely because the local government didn’t want “competition”? Some these applications were just not sound options as institutions! Its amazing that money can magically appear when the Gov. Deal has an agenda, while at the same time the state decreases funding for schools already in place – including those that exceed AYP and every other measure the government ties to funding.

Dunwoody Mom

July 14th, 2011
2:25 pm

So, is the Governor going to give the public school systems the money back he took from them in this year’s budget? I smell another lawsuit.

Incredulous

July 14th, 2011
2:30 pm

@Active in Cherokee. Thanks for the response to my earlier post concerning the Cherokee Charter denial. I wonder who is pulling the strings on this. @Maureen,can you or someone with the AJC do some old fashioned journalism on this current event? Where, indeed, is the money coming from. If it’s from the Gates or Broad Foundation, or subsidiary, then this is a high dollar experiment.Didn’t the Barge just say that we were going to have to more with less? With the level of frustration on this blog, I doubt the charter schools will have a difficult time staffing. Perhaps you could post the compensation differences between charter and public schools.

DeKalb Resident

July 14th, 2011
2:32 pm

If the money is just going to the brick-and-mortar schools than it is not going to the three virtual schools involved here. It probably is not going to the schools that are already expected to receive local funds, such as Ivy Prep. Thus, we know Maureen’s statement that it is going to make up the cost for the 16 schools affected by the Supreme Court ruling is false, even with the little information that is available.

Tony

July 14th, 2011
2:34 pm

Somebody did not think this one all the way through. The state could not afford to pay the already existing public schools the funding they earned through the QBE formula and now the governor is going to fund the charters at a higher per student rate than the regular schools.

First, the average per pupil funding that you say will be paid to the charter schools is a much higher rate than these schools should be paid because it includes the costs to educate special education students. These costs push up the average per pupil funding much more than most people realize. Unless the charters are planning to take in the students with some of the most severe disabilities, it is highly inappropriate to fund the schools at this rate.

Second, this is a slap in the face of every child in the state of Georgia who attends a public school. They are now truly second rate.

Finally, where is the money coming from? Our district had $10,000,000 withheld right off the top of our allotment labelled as “Austerity”. Every other district had money withheld, too. How is it then that the state is able to find the money to fund the charter schools at a higher rate?

Veteran Observer

July 14th, 2011
2:35 pm

I smell Chip Rogers behind the scenes on this one! Everyone in the state should be appalled at this at a time when they are trying to balance a budget on shrinking revenues!

Maureen Downey

July 14th, 2011
2:35 pm

@Dekalb, Unless DeKalb and Gwinnett ask why they should pay local costs while all the other schools will get their share from the state.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

July 14th, 2011
2:36 pm

@Incredulous, I have called DOE and the governor’s office. Will get info asap and post.
Maureen

Pete

July 14th, 2011
2:40 pm

The CRCT contract is CTB/McGraw-Hill. “CTB/McGraw-Hill, the nation’s leader in PreK-12 and adult education assessment solutions, today announced a five-year $62.5 million award from the Georgia Department of Education to serve as the primary contractor for the administration of the Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT). The contract award begins with the 2006/2007 school year and includes four annual renewal options through 2010.”

The URL to the web site with this information and the remainder of hte announcement is http://www.grownetwork.com/about/news/georgia.pdf

FBT

July 14th, 2011
2:46 pm

Thank you for the update.

I am very frustrated that once again virtual school students are denied equal opportunities due to the low level of funding.

yuzeyurbrane

July 14th, 2011
2:51 pm

According to Deal’s philosophy, public education is an entitlement program he wants to eliminate or continue to dramatically cut. Prob.–Ga. Const. stands in his way.

Incredulous

July 14th, 2011
2:52 pm

@Pete. Interesting thread. This borrowed article, I’ve pasted the good part, lays out just how corrupt we’ve allowed our government to become. This article made me realize who is currently pulling Boehner’s strings during the budget impasse.

*few education critics have noted the Administration’s cozy relationship with McGraw-Hill. At its heart lies the three-generation social mingling between the McGraw and Bush families. The McGraws are old Bush friends, dating back to the 1930s, when Joseph and Permelia Pryor Reed began to establish Jupiter Island, a barrier island off the coast of Florida, as a haven for the Northeast wealthy. The island’s original roster of socialite vacationers reads like a who’s who of American industry, finance and government: the Meads, the Mellons, the Paysons, the Whitneys, the Lovetts, the Harrimans–and Prescott Bush and James McGraw Jr. The generations of the two families parallel each other closely in age: the patriarchs Prescott and James Jr., son George and nephew Harold Jr., and grandson George W. and grandnephew Harold III, who now runs the family publishing empire.

The amount of cross-pollination and mutual admiration between the Administration and that empire is striking: Harold McGraw Jr. sits on the national grant advisory and founding board of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. McGraw in turn received the highest literacy award from President Bush in the early 1990s, for his contributions to the cause of literacy. The McGraw Foundation awarded current Bush Education Secretary Rod Paige its highest educator’s award while Paige was Houston’s school chief; Paige, in turn, was the keynote speaker at McGraw-Hill’s “government initiatives” conference last spring. Harold McGraw III was selected as a member of President George W. Bush’s transition advisory team, along with McGraw-Hill board member Edward Rust Jr., the CEO of State Farm and an active member of the Business Roundtable on educational issues. An ex-chief of staff for Barbara Bush is returning to work for Laura Bush in the White House–after a stint with McGraw-Hill as a media relations executive. John Negroponte left his position as McGraw-Hill’s executive vice president for global markets to become Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Now we know the rest of the story….Paul Harvey

Dunwoody Mom

July 14th, 2011
2:59 pm

I’m fairly certain DeKalb and Gwinnett systems are not going to be thrilled with this.

Active in Cherokee

July 14th, 2011
3:03 pm

@Incredulous – no problem… I don’t know how many people share my opinion, but at least mine is an informed one. I was sick of the people that viewed the Cherokee Charter as a Charter vs “Traditional” Public school argument without looking at all of the facts.

@Maureen – yes please let us know the sources of funding, thanks for putting in the calls. btw…my comments on the previous blog seem to be caught in the filter

Ripped this quote someone posted on the blog earlier today, seems more appropiate here: “Lots of people make lots of money in education by providing dubious materials, which is why the charter school movement is beginning to smell like a chum bucket.”

As someone that believes good Charter Schools have a valid place in education (though each one should not be approved – look at the merits of the individual application). The more I have thought about it today the more outraged I’ve become at testing companies, self-serving textbook companies, and yes many of these charter corporations that make billions of dollars from public tax money while at the same time watching the system fail. They seem to have the public schools enslaved to their agenda while at the same time having more money available to sway congress to do whatever helps their bottom line. Think the Government will ever investigate CTB/McGraw-Hill as having a monopoly since they provide the test, test-grading, textbooks, and extra-help books? With that much power they have more control on what the student is learning than any administrator, teacher, or even politician.
I don’t usually gripe on here – but felt I needed to get that one out.

Inman Park Boy

July 14th, 2011
3:10 pm

Good for the state: Actually supporting schools that work. How revolutionary!

Maureen Downey

July 14th, 2011
3:13 pm

@Active, Nothing in the filter. Not sure where your comment went.
Maureen

Dunwoody Mom

July 14th, 2011
3:13 pm

@Inman Park Boy – as Maureen stated, you may want to look at the CRCT scores for these schools before you call them “schools that work”.

Incredulous

July 14th, 2011
3:21 pm

@Maureen. all kidding aside, with Murdoch in the wind, there could be a Pulitzer in this. Hopefully there is someone outside of the system willing to detail this out. Or am I overly zealous?

rally

July 14th, 2011
3:22 pm

Maureen where are they getting this money from. The lottery is broke…they are not state schools. Every city and town is broke. This is bad news all around. I understand the need for charter schools. If you pay for this out of funds aren’t they crossing the line by picking and choosing who they help and dont help.
If you think any APS teachers and supertindents are going to face criminal prosecution all of you posters are sadly mistaken and nieve to the current culture and value of our society. May I remind you of Casey Anthony:)

Active in Cherokee

July 14th, 2011
3:25 pm

@Inman Park Boy – Charter Schools USA (the company sponsoring the Cherokee Co. Charter School) did not have one school in the nation that outperformed the Cherokee Co. Public School average score. Not the ‘best’ schools in CCSD, but not one of their academies could even out perform the average score of CCSD. Yet, they want local public money to go towards the bottom of their company so they could bring in their sub-par methods. Their application was denied multiple times over multiple years for numerous reasons, not just because it was a charter school. That’s why there is a process for individual application and this one was denied. You can’t lump everything into the same boat just because for whatever reason you believe charter schools are going to save education! (Yet, Gov. Deal is still going to give them money)

Dunwoody Mom

July 14th, 2011
3:25 pm

Does the Governor even have authority to do this?

Write Your Board Members

July 14th, 2011
3:47 pm

This stinks. My children will be sitting in larger classes and the state does this.

Boo everyone!

My2Cents

July 14th, 2011
3:48 pm

Every time I pay my taxes, I think, “I really hope this money is going to be used well.” Today’s ruling gives me hope that it will. Charter Schools USA schools DID outperform most Georgia schools because the testing standards are much higher in Florida than in Georgia. The bar is higher in other states. High performing charter schools are held accountable – unlike traditional public schools. Now that this is going to happen, we’ll have actual data to compare instead of misinformed rhetoric.

Dunwoody Mom

July 14th, 2011
3:51 pm

@My2Cents…..you are aware that several school systems in the State of Florida are having their own cheating issues with the FCAT? Please show me data that the testing standards are higher in Florida? I don’t think there are any “high” test standards at all with these standardized tests.

Amazed

July 14th, 2011
3:53 pm

That was a rapid rescue for the charter schools. Where did you get the money? What about the public schools who have experienced a 1 billion dollar austerity cut over the past seven years? What about it Governor? What about it General Assembly? Anyone interested in our K-12 children in all of our schools? Maybe you are appeasing your political sharks whose appetities are focused on only a few ideological beliefs without any regard for factual information. Gain the knowledge before you tear down and contribute to the decline of your own society.
Where you spend our money is obviously a reflection of what you really value. Where has the courage gone in our leadership? Who will stand-up for our 1.5 million children in our state? Obviously not the current state leadership. To: Chip Rogers,Tommie Williams, Jan Jones, and other dwindling pool of friends, your rehtoric is tired and frankly unfounded in the world of facts and truth.

Dunwoody Mom

July 14th, 2011
3:55 pm

You are also aware that in Florida the charter schools have a much higher failure rate than that of public schools. This is a big scandal going on in Florida now. (Saw several reports while vacationing in the Sunshine State). Despite this fact, the Florida Governor continues to push charter schools. This might interest you:

http://www.btuonline.com/pdfs/FCAT%20Results.pdf

Charter School Students Still Score Lower

July 14th, 2011
4:07 pm

I have read in several places, that on average, charter school students score below public schools even with their inherent advantages being able to control their numbers and types of students. I do not want my money paying for a substandard education coupled with lower pay for teachers and staff.

t

July 14th, 2011
4:10 pm

Reducing the funding for public schools but now picking up the bill for charter schools. Who is doing the state’s budget? SOUNDS LIKE DEAL HAS MADE ANOTHER DEAL. All of you who voted for him is getting just what you deserve the rest of us now must SUFFER.

Betty Rainwater

July 14th, 2011
4:11 pm

If I am remembering correctly, Joe Martin proposed that the State provide funding to make up for the local share. True, it was not in the Senate hearing, but in an opinion piece in the AJC in June.

Carimar

July 14th, 2011
4:14 pm

I assume any government schoolteachers posting here will disclose their economic reasons for opposing charter schools.

Active in Cherokee

July 14th, 2011
4:22 pm

@My2Cents – but not in Cherokee Co which is where the proposed school is. All of the comparisions between the CRCT and the FCAT aside….. CSUSA schools 35% met AYP, CCSD 92% met AYP. Even with Florida’s ‘Higher Standards’ I don’t think it can possibly make up for that gap. Yea for CSUSA – they achieved above the state (but not national) average. CCSD performed in the top 10% in virtually every category – schools in the past year achieved National Blue Ribbon Status, Governor’s Platinum and Gold Status, and EHS finished in the top 10 schools statewide on the SAT (with all HS’s performing above state and national averages). CCSD is doing pretty good on its on – put together a better package that doesn’t include a company with sub-par test results, a shared parent company that pays itself for facilities, one that doesn’t block local access/opinions with the governing council, and doesn’t hide the process of the mythical ‘lottery’ for acceptance and it may get approved in an already successful system.

BTW – CCSD outperformed CCUSA even with SpeED and ELL students taking the tests (which are not in their school walls)…..Imagine the gap if you throw the test scores of those students out!

Margaret

July 14th, 2011
4:26 pm

Maureen, like @incredulous, I hope you might be able to get to the bottom of where this money might be coming from. I have heard rumors that the Governor’s office was in talks with the Gates Foundation to bail out the commission charters. I wonder if this is the case, and if so, what policy makers may have promised in return.

www.honeyfern.org

July 14th, 2011
4:29 pm

@Dunwoody Mom – I believe it has been well established that CRCT scores mean nothing, so holding those over a charter school is empty and pointless.

catlady

July 14th, 2011
4:33 pm

Perhaps the money for this is coming from the Governor’s paycheck (chuckle, chuckle). Or maybe Chip et al found money for it. Or maybe they will close “Go Fish” to pay for it (chortle).

I just know our system has cut everything from teachers and janitors and the lunchladies (so far) and I am guessing bus drivers will be next. Of course, the football field with its $3M improvements will be fine, as will the CO staff.

Incredulous

July 14th, 2011
4:36 pm

@Active in Cherokee. What do you think the impact of Common Core Standards will be on this argument? The comparisons to Florida aren’t really fair. Florida, at least in the more urban areas, uses Charters as magnet programs. These essentially fill the role that vocational and often arts and humanities programs USED to teach, along with the incorrigible and refusal to learns. In that sense, Florida is expanding offerings to parents. The FCAT is also only given to 3rd. 5th, and 8th graders. The need for success is just as implicit in the sunshine state as well. Charter schools do not fit all communities and are not the only option available to parents. I’m not certain there is a “silver bullet”, but as a parent I’d like more choices than “take it or leave it.”

dinkdunk

July 14th, 2011
4:38 pm

Hmmmm. Now I guess all of those Muslim front schools in Alpharetta will come with their hands out.
Fulton Science Academys and Amana Academy just for clarification.

And your point is?

July 14th, 2011
4:39 pm

@ in the affirmative (first poster): Wow, dude! Race bate much? Did some Black Man hurt your feelings today or something? Geez!

amazed

July 14th, 2011
4:40 pm

This is an entirely appropriate response given that the state had already approved the charters and the state’s court ruled that it was illegal. A bunch of parents, students, teachers and organizers were stranded at the last minute through no fault of their own. I don’t like it as a long term solution, but it is very appropriate for one year, much as Dekalb and Gwinnet did some one year approvals.

The fact that the Cherokee people are so worked up about this tells me that it really is a control issue, public vs. charter, up there and not due to the specifics of the school.

Private school guy

July 14th, 2011
4:40 pm

Incredulous, thanks for the post on the real truth behind NCLB and who profits from the testing. I refer to it as No Corporation Left Behind. This shows us the real danger of having too much federal involvement in education.

Concerned Parent

July 14th, 2011
4:40 pm

Thinks that due to the widespread cheating scandal and investigation, other alternatives should be provided. How does one justify or reimburse a child of who has been robbed of an adequate education?

Middle School Teacher

July 14th, 2011
4:41 pm

Interesting. Pleasee explain why teachers in Gwinnett County are losing two days to furloughs while the state is able to find $10 million to fund illegally established schools. What good is our judicial system (ie: Appeals Court) if the state can circumvent rulings by simply robbing Peter to pay Paul? I sense some illegal goings on here.

John

July 14th, 2011
4:46 pm

And exactly how is the Governor going to circumvent the budget process to do this when our oublic schools are losing funding and state employees are in their fourth straight year without pay raises?

Reality Check

July 14th, 2011
4:46 pm

Not sure why the Cherokee educrats care anymore. Your argument used to be about taking local funding away and that was blown way out of proportion even though I thought it had some weight to it, is not valid anymore. Could it be that you were really worried about competition in your school district and you just used scare tactics about local funding? hmmmm seems rather suspicious.

The Debate is NOT about Systems, it is about CHOICES !!!

July 14th, 2011
4:48 pm

Here all of you public school union reps, teachers and employees go again – PROTECT THE SYSTEM at all costs – even if it is not meeting parent’ss and children’s needs. You would think you guys would “hear the message” that parents are sick and tired of the ways of public schooling nowadays – a do or die focus on standardized tests (not to mention cheating) vs. a balanced education, a divorcing of parents and teachers driving educational excellence vs. the federal govt and local administrators condescendingly micromanaging it, and a focus on mediocrity for all vs. individual student excellence and optimization. Gov. Deal, State Supt. Barge, and Senator Rogers are doing what we elected them to do – PROVIDE OPTIONS, COMPETITION, AND FULL ACCESS TO OPTIONS for parents and children who want an education that is going to meet their needs and help them reach their fullest potential, vs. being handcuffed to the “One-Size Fits-All, Teach to the CRCT at all costs” model that is obviously not working for a large portion of students. Parents of 2,600+ kids in Cherokee County aren’t happy with the current offerings, regardless of whether or not their school made AYP, was a Gold, Silver, Bronze Medal or a failing school. GET OVER IT. GOD BLESS GOV. DEAL, STATE SUPT. BARGE, AND SENATOR ROGERS. EDUCATIONAL CHOICE IS ALIVE AND WELL IN GA and CHANGE IS COMING – ON OUR WATCH – THE SCHOOL CHOICE WATCH – AND NOT YOURS !!! P.S. – All you Anti School-Choice Cherokeans, don’t worry, you get a free year of additional money, Dr. P gets to keep 50% local funding for 995 children the county is not going to educate. I wonder how that is going to get wasted ??? I am sure he, Mike Chapman, Rob Wofford, Janet Read and Rick Stiner will figure out plenty of things to waste it on.

John Q Public

July 14th, 2011
4:51 pm

Maureen, please inform the confused public how the children attending these PUBLIC schools of choice would have been funded at about half of what other children are funded.

What the Governor did today shows a commitment to children and families, ensuring no child is funded at levels preventing them from being educated any less than their next door neighbors.

Thank you Governor Deal For your willingness to show leadership. Your actions today is not taking away from public school districts. Your actions are enhancing public education as a whole, allowing me to have public school choice.

Maureen, haven’t you always said you would be OK with the state approving charter schools so long as the state funds the schools and not a “slight of hand” in using local funds?

Maureen Downey

July 14th, 2011
4:53 pm

@John Q, I think the state should fund schools that it approves. The question here is where the money is coming from during this recession.
I also think that the state should have looked at the schools that were operating to ensure it was funding successful programs or at least programs on the way to success. I do have concerns with one school.
Maureen

John Q Public

July 14th, 2011
4:54 pm

And this will help all those parents being cheated in APS, Dougherty, DeKalb, Clayton and elsewhere.

concerned teacher

July 14th, 2011
4:54 pm

Where does Peachtree Hope fall in all of this?

The Debate is NOT about Systems, it is about CHOICES !!!

July 14th, 2011
4:56 pm

@Catlady – FYI – football field improvements are actually the one thing that seem smartest to make of all. Hundreds of thousands of dollars can be saved in maintenance costs with maintenance-free Field Turf, and additional revenue will occur as part of improving the facilities and opening them up for community rentals. And football is the only “revenue” entity in a public school, while other things like unnecessary administrators, staff, exhorbitant pension programs and other bureaucratic waste that just suck money away from where it should be put to use most in the classroom and towards extra-curriculars. LET’S MAKE THOSE CUTS AND PLAY BALL !!!