Governor Nathan Deal has approved a financial rescue package that will significantly improve state funding for eight former brick-and-mortar state commission charter schools. The schools were notified Thursday in an email from the state Department of Education.
Tony Roberts, chief executive officer at the Georgia Charter Schools Association, was elated when he heard the news: “Governor Deal said at the beginning of this crisis that he was going to take care of the children in these schools and he really made it happen by encouraging the state superintendent to have a streamlined approval process for state special charter schools and now he has seen to it that those schools get full funding.”
What this means on a practical level is eight brick-and-mortar schools that were uncertain about their 2011-2012 financials can open next month assured of funding levels they would have received from the defunct Georgia Charter Schools Commission. The state Supreme Court ruled the commission was unconstitutional in a widely controversial May decision.
“The State will forward fund the bricks-and-mortar state-chartered special schools for an amount equal to the average local share they would have received if they were locally approved,” said Louis Erste, charter schools division director at the state Department of Education, adding that will bring revenues “to the same amount they would have received as a locally-approved charter school serving the students in their approved attendance zone.”
Those eight brick-and-mortar schools are 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, Odyssey School in Newnan and Pataula Charter Academy in Edison.
“We don’t know the exact dollar figure at this point,” said Erin Hames, who is Governor Deal’s deputy chief of staff, “but (the Governor’s Office) had to make a quick decision because some of these schools were set to meet tomorrow to determine whether they could keep their doors open this fall.”
Roberts said it is his understanding the cost to the state is under review. Mark Peevy, former executive director of the defunct charter schools commission, estimated about $10 million. But since Peevy made that estimate this spring two schools – Heron Bay Academy and Provost Academy – decided they will not open until the 2012 – 2013 school year.
Roberts also said based on what he knows now, this is a one-year fix: “There is no commitment that this will continue beyond this first year.” The decision to improve funding for brick-and-mortar state charter schools does not impact the online learning state charter special schools such as Georgia Cyber Academy and Georgia Connections Academy.
Two brick-and mortar schools – Ivy Preparatory Academy in Gwinnett and the Museum School of Avondale Estates in DeKalb – accepted local school district charters.
Ivy Prep and Museum School funding already includes local share dollars for their students who reside in the counties that granted charters. To illustrate how complicated this has become; Ivy does not have full funding guaranteed for students who reside outside Gwinnett County. That is still unresolved. Ivy draws students from several counties, including DeKalb.