Georgia's charter law receives a C: Can we strive to be better than average?   Leave a comment

The Center for Education Reform recently released its annual report card grading states’ charter school laws. Georgia’s charter school law, passed in 1993, received a grade of ‘C’ for the past two years. In 2008, Georgia received a  ‘B’ because of the newly formed Charter School Commission. Interesting, we expect our students to improve each year, yet our charter school law received a lower grade this year. I will come back to that later.

In a recent Atlanta-Journal Constitution article Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, notes two reasons why Georgia’s grade remains at ‘C’: (1) its independent authorizer is still largely controlled by the Department of Education; and (2) inequitable funding of charter schools. In Georgia, the funds do not follow the child. Although the new authorizer has alleviated part of the funding issue, charter schools are still underfunded when compared to traditional schools. Allen points to districts for doing a ‘…bad job of approving and funding schools.’ She’s is absolutely correct. The creation of the commission was due largely in part to the high number of charter denials by local boards of education, especially in the metro-Atlanta districts such as Atlanta Public Schools, Fulton County, and Gwinnett County. Allen also cites the pending lawsuits challenging the commission’s authority to allocate funds as having a negative affect on Georgia’s grade. Andrew Broy, Associate Superintendent, thinks that some categories are more weighted this year. He contends that consideration should be given for the state’s new initiative to provide charter schools with vacant buildings. Allen directly asserts, “That’s not enough.”

Now back to my question: How can we place improvement standards on students and teachers, when the legal ‘experts’ cannot identify weaknesses in our state’s charter school law and make the necessary changes? Better yet, are we really in a position to push for national standards, more teacher scrutiny, and enter the ‘Race to the Top’ when charter laws receive grades that are average or failing? Based on the Center for Education Reform’s report, it appears that very few states are actually prepared to receive those funds and use them wisely. I said it before and I will say it again: This whole ‘racing’ concept makes me very uncomfortable. How will the U.S. Department of Education determine which states are truly competent enough to use the funds for the intended purposes? Other writers have asserted that this is not really a competition for the most qualified, but instead a popularity contest. If that is in fact true, I expect D.C. to receive a windfall. But again, I am no expert. I don’t claim to be one, but I do have enough common sense to know this could potentially be a monumental waste of money.

In case you haven’t already heard, California, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia are the only states to receive a grade of ‘A’;  nine states received a grade of ‘B.’ Those with average or less-than-average scores can be found by clicking here.

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