This November 6, there will be something on the ballot besides the choice for president. It is a proposed amendment to the Georgia Constitution that would set up an additional charter school authorization board at the state level. On the ballot, the question will appear like this:
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
Currently, the only way a charter school application can be approved is through the local school board. If the local board denies the application, the decision can be appealed to the Georgia State Board of Education. However, the State Board of Education has limitations on resources which may place charter school appeals review and approval low on its list of priorities.
Proponents of the amendment say that another avenue for approval is needed. Local school boards are naturally resistant to charter school creation as charter schools can sap resources and authority from the public school system by providing an additional option to parents. People against the amendment believe that a state authorization board would create an additional layer of bureaucracy that is unnecessary. They think that local school boards are better at being held accountable because they are elected by the local community, as opposed to appointed at the state level.
So what exactly is a charter school? It is not a private school and it isn’t allowed to charge tuition. Charter schools have no admission standards and when the amount of applicants exceeds capacity students are chosen by random lottery. Some applicants can get preferential treatment, but the qualifiers are generally things like having a sibling in the charter school or a parent working at the school. They also can be geographically limited to a specific area, much like a normal public school. However, charters also may have a statewide or multicounty base.
Charter schools, when approved, are given more flexibility on how to fund and manage the school than a normal public school. The authorizing body will determine the specific metrics that the charter must meet. Charters are set for specific terms, usually 5 years, at the end of which they have to apply for renewal. If they have not lived up to the metrics specified in their charter, then they will be closed. Charter schools in Georgia are required to meet at minimum the general requirements for public school academic performance, and sometimes have higher standards, depending on the specifics of the population they serve.
Charter schools are funded in the same way normal public schools are. In Georgia, this involves a combination of local taxes and grants through the state. There are also federal grants specifically allocated to charter schools, such as the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program. Fundraising and charitable contributions provide the remainder of funds. The main formula to determine base funding is the Quality Basic Education formula used by normal public schools. Also like public schools, most of the funding is determined per student. This provides a disincentive for a local school board to approve a charter school that will siphon off students, and therefore funding. With many public schools underfunded, there is concern that creating additional charter schools will sap resources or cause property taxes to increase. State approved charter schools, under the amendment, would be funded solely by state funds.
The proposed state independent approval board would consist of people appointed by the governor and state legislature. It will be more insulated from local politics than local school boards and will be an alternate avenue for creating charters. States that have multiple authorization entities typically have more charter schools. There are 25 such states, and 80% of the nation’s charter schools exist in them. Colorado has an independent chartering board much like the one being proposed in Georgia.
Georgia previously had a state charter school authorization board until the Georgia Supreme Court found it unconstitutional in 2011. The court ruled 4-3 that a charter school did not meet the legal definition of a “special school” that is allowed to be created at the state level under the Georgia Constitution of 1983. The court cited part of the Constitution which states, “Authority is granted to county and area boards of education to establish and maintain public schools within their limits.” This made an amendment to the Georgia Constitution necessary to reestablish the state board.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Georgia Charter Schools Amendment Gets Boost from RNC: http://blogs.ajc.com/kyle-wingfield/2012/09/06/georgia-charter-schools-amendment-gets-boost-from-rnc/
Georgia General Assembly House Resolution 1162 Proposed Amendment: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20112012/HR/1162
PTA Action Alert: http://www.georgiapta.org/Action_Alert_Oppose_HR_1162.htm
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Georgia PTA Reiterates Opposition To Charter Schools Amendment: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-education/georgia-pta-reiterates-opposition-to-charter-schoo/nR3WG/
Athens Banner-Herald League of Women Voters Rejects Charter-School Amendment: http://onlineathens.com/local-news/2012-09-17/league-women-voters-rejects-charter-school-amendment
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Does Charter School Funding Leave Taxpayers Holding the Bag? http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2012/09/10/does-charter-school-funding-leave-taxpayers-holding-the-bag/?cxntfid=blogs_get_schooled_blog
Cherokee Tribune Cherokee Charter Academy Oks $7.7M Budget: http://www.cherokeetribune.com/view/full_story/19132612/article-Cherokee-Charter-Academy-OKs–7-7M-budget?instance=home_top_bullets
The Blackshear Times Here Are Some Facts about Georgia’s Charter Schools Amendment: http://www.theblacksheartimes.com/articles/2012/08/21/opinion/doc5033ce42908fa956584382.txt
Georgia Supreme Court Gwinnett County School District et al. v. COX et al. http://www.gasupreme.us/sc-op/pdf/s10a1773.pdf
Georgia General Assembly HB 797 State chartered special schools; revise funding: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20112012/HB/797
How to Restore the Intent of the QBE Formula: http://www.casfg.org/reports/Delivering_on_the_Promise.pdf
Vote Smart Georgia: http://www.votesmartgeorgia.com/facts
EmpowerED Georgia 8 Myths About the Proposed Charter Amendment: http://www.empoweredga.org/files/8_Myths.pdf
Georgia Department of Education Charter School FAQ: http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/General-Frequently-Asked-Questions.aspx
Athens Patch Former Members of the Georgia Charter Commission Speak Out: http://athens.patch.com/articles/former-members-of-the-georgia-charter-commission-speak-out-3469a7a6
The Center for Education Reform the Importance of Multiple Authorizers in Charter School Laws: http://www.edreform.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/CERPrimerMultipleAuthorizersDec2011.pdf
National Conference of State Legislatures Authorizing Charter Schools: http://www.ncsl.org/documents/educ/AuthorizingCharterSchools.pdf
National Charter School Resource Center Charter Schools Can Tap Into a Wide Range of Federal Discretionary Grants: http://www.charterschoolcenter.org/newsletter/charter-schools-can-tap-wide-range-federal-discretionary-grants
National Association of Charter School Authorizers: http://www.qualitycharters.org/