Archive for the ‘Georgia Charter Commission’ Tag

Georgia's Charter Commission: Same story, different day   Leave a comment

In 2008, legislation was passed to the create the Charter School Commission in Georgia. Formally known as House Bill 881, the Commission was created in response to the high number of charter denials by local boards of education (LEAs) throughout the state, particularly in the metro-Atlanta districts. This past summer, the Commission approved its first charter schools: Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all-girls’ school in Norcross, GA; and Charter Conservatory of Liberal Arts & Technology in Statesboro, GA. Since both schools are now Commission-approved, they will receive full state and partial local funding. Despite the intent of House Bill 881, charter schools still receive less per-pupil funding than traditional schools. This is one reasons Georgia’s charter school law received a ‘C’ on the Center for Education Reform’s annual charter school report card.

Although it appears (to outsiders) that Georgia has made some strides with its charter school policy and authorization, I can’t help but wonder: Is the process really any better with the newly-formed Commission? During the most recent charter cycle, the Commission approved five (out of 35) new charter petitions: 2 CMO-based schools; 2 community-based schools; and 1 petition that was resubmitted to receive Commission approval, after being approved as a State Special Charter School earlier this year.

One of the CMO-based school raises concerns. In the budget submitted with the charter petition, National Heritage Academies proposes fees totaling more than $1 million dollars the first year of operation. The school plans to enroll 500 students during the first year. Basically, National Heritage Academies will receive their guaranteed fees off the top of the school’s revenues, including grant funds and Title I allocations. Hmmmm. Interesting. None of the grassroots groups that submitted charter petitions included management, licensing, or facilities fees in their budgets; only one community-based group was approved. This particular group is comprised of affluent parents in an established DeKalb County neighborhood.

I must admit that I am completely dismayed and utterly disgusted at the blatant profiteering occurring within the charter school community. The state’s quest for Race to the Top funds puts traditional grassroots groups (Read: minorities without access to large sums of capital, whose children will likely attend said schools) at a clear disadvantage. The charter school culture continues to cater to for-profit companies masked as non-profits. I posed the question: Have Charter Management Organizations run amok? in another blog post. I stand corrected: There is no need to frame that statement in the form of a question. It is painstakingly obvious that they have had a considerable amount of help and for all intents and purposes, it’s perfectly legal. Well, at least for now it is. The most damning affect, in my opinion, is the perpetuation of this implied ‘Great White Hope’ theory or attitude much like the ones we have seen in D.C. and New York. despite media hype or lore, Blacks are qualified and competent enough to educate kids, and not just our kids. As long as there are implied barriers (e.g., if you don’t have $1 million dollars – don’t apply) are in place and supported by politicians, the governor, the State Superintendent of Schools, and the Charter Schools Commission, minorities may as well sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else ‘race’ to the top.

Georgia’s Charter Commission: Same story, different day   Leave a comment

In 2008, legislation was passed to the create the Charter School Commission in Georgia. Formally known as House Bill 881, the Commission was created in response to the high number of charter denials by local boards of education (LEAs) throughout the state, particularly in the metro-Atlanta districts. This past summer, the Commission approved its first charter schools: Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all-girls’ school in Norcross, GA; and Charter Conservatory of Liberal Arts & Technology in Statesboro, GA. Since both schools are now Commission-approved, they will receive full state and partial local funding. Despite the intent of House Bill 881, charter schools still receive less per-pupil funding than traditional schools. This is one reasons Georgia’s charter school law received a ‘C’ on the Center for Education Reform’s annual charter school report card.

Although it appears (to outsiders) that Georgia has made some strides with its charter school policy and authorization, I can’t help but wonder: Is the process really any better with the newly-formed Commission? During the most recent charter cycle, the Commission approved five (out of 35) new charter petitions: 2 CMO-based schools; 2 community-based schools; and 1 petition that was resubmitted to receive Commission approval, after being approved as a State Special Charter School earlier this year.

One of the CMO-based school raises concerns. In the budget submitted with the charter petition, National Heritage Academies proposes fees totaling more than $1 million dollars the first year of operation. The school plans to enroll 500 students during the first year. Basically, National Heritage Academies will receive their guaranteed fees off the top of the school’s revenues, including grant funds and Title I allocations. Hmmmm. Interesting. None of the grassroots groups that submitted charter petitions included management, licensing, or facilities fees in their budgets; only one community-based group was approved. This particular group is comprised of affluent parents in an established DeKalb County neighborhood.

I must admit that I am completely dismayed and utterly disgusted at the blatant profiteering occurring within the charter school community. The state’s quest for Race to the Top funds puts traditional grassroots groups (Read: minorities without access to large sums of capital, whose children will likely attend said schools) at a clear disadvantage. The charter school culture continues to cater to for-profit companies masked as non-profits. I posed the question: Have Charter Management Organizations run amok? in another blog post. I stand corrected: There is no need to frame that statement in the form of a question. It is painstakingly obvious that they have had a considerable amount of help and for all intents and purposes, it’s perfectly legal. Well, at least for now it is. The most damning affect, in my opinion, is the perpetuation of this implied ‘Great White Hope’ theory or attitude much like the ones we have seen in D.C. and New York. despite media hype or lore, Blacks are qualified and competent enough to educate kids, and not just our kids. As long as there are implied barriers (e.g., if you don’t have $1 million dollars – don’t apply) are in place and supported by politicians, the governor, the State Superintendent of Schools, and the Charter Schools Commission, minorities may as well sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else ‘race’ to the top.

Are grassroots charter groups at a disadvantage?   2 comments

For those who have been following my blogs or Tweets, you are aware that I do not claim to be an expert on anything. Instead, I choose to rely on my common sense and observations to draw conclusions and offer my two cents on anything Education-related. My passions are, in no particular order: (1) Actually closing the achievement gap, instead of just talking about it; (2) more free school choice options for students who happen to be minority or from low-income families; (3) smaller schools; (4) ending racial barriers to Gifted Education programs; and (5) addressing the over-representation of African American students, particularly males, in Special Education. Perhaps I am most passionate about creating more school choice options because, when done correctly, it can alleviate the other issues.

In one of my blog posts, I asked ‘Can Education really be fixed?’ because there are so many companies jumping into the business of Education for the sake of making a profit. Whether they are publishers of Education-related textbooks, masking their companies as non-profit CMOs (See: Imagine blog post), or charging charter schools nearly $1 million dollars in management fees per year, a lot of people are getting very rich off of the ‘economically disadvantaged.’ When these new ‘miracle’ plans do not work, critics begin to point the finger at the victims, also known as students. In reality, we need to start addressing some of the other disparities in Education before we can really claim that we are trying to close the achievement gap.

Let’s take a quick look at the charter school movement, as these schools have become increasingly popular with parents who cannot afford private school tuition. For the states with charter school legislation (39 and D.C.), it is expected that each would have unique chartering process and policies. Since I have only studied the legislation of Indiana and Georgia, I will only comment on those two. Until this year, Georgia only had one charter approval process: Submitting applications to the Board of Education in the district where the school would be located. The local board then had two options: approval or denial. If the application is denied, the group could submit it to the State Board of Education to be approved as a State Chartered Special School. Unfortunately, this special status would mean less per pupil funding; schools would have to operate on a significantly smaller budget. Last year, Georgia’s Charter Commission was approved in an effort to further the charter school movement and as a response to the high number of denials by local school boards

While I applaud the state representatives, politicians, and others who support the move to increase charters, we still have a problem: Grassroots groups, mainly minority-created, are still at a disadvantage in the charter school movement. Some groups are required to raise exorbitant amounts of capital to guarantee approval; others are told that their projected salaries are too low to attract and retain qualified staff, even though salaries mirror those in the district. There are no stipulations for such requirements in Georgia’s charter school law; instead, the leadership determines who will receive approval based on whether one’s attitude is in line with their expectations. Parental support, student needs, and potential success are not factors. Also troubling are insinuations made that applicants must participate in charter school leadership training provided by the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Again, the law does not stipulate that this is required; however, it has been implied. The cost for GCSA leadership training is $10,000 for members and $15,000 for non-members. Most grassroots organizations are staffed by individuals who have full-time paying jobs, which usually support their families. Expecting someone to pay this amount of money for a school that may or may not be approved, is…well, a bit careless. Agree? Unless, of course, attending the training guarantees approval of your application. I certainly hope no one is stupid enough to charge people for an approved application. That’s almost as absurd as appointing one of your Teach for America colleagues to sit on the state’s Charter Committee, but I digress.

So again, how can we close the achievement gap when all stakeholders do not have a legitimate voice in offering solutions? There is a lot to be said about the charter school movement become an exclusive club only meant for people with access to millions of dollars of capital. Chances are, they don’t look like the ‘poor, disadvantaged’ people they plan to help.