Opinion: Low funding cripples state charter schools

The head of the Georgia Charter Schools Association says funding for state authorized charter schools remains a barrier to charter school quality.

In this column, Tony Roberts, Georgia Charter Schools Association president and CEO, calls for additional funding for state authorized charter schools.

By Tony Roberts

Many Georgia public charter schools are thriving, others need funding boost

Georgia has more than 80,000 public charter school students, which is more than triple the number enrolled in Georgia charter schools just a decade ago. This growth demonstrates the popularity of charter schools and the important role they play as a public school option for students and families.

In the city of Atlanta, charter schools are improving academic outcomes for children, particularly low-income students of color. You can see evidence of this when looking at Georgia’s 2017 College and Career Ready Performance Index and the recent Georgia Milestones assessment results: charter schools like Drew Charter School, Centennial Academy, KIPP STRIVE Primary and KIPP Atlanta Collegiate were among the district’s top performers. The success of Atlanta charter schools is also apparent in the district’s plan to turnaround several of its lowest performing schools. As part of that plan, the district has contracted with several charter operators like Purpose Built Schools and the Kindezi Schools. These charter operators are already helping to raise the achievement bar for Atlanta’s students.

In the greater metro Atlanta area, DeKalb PATH Academy, Amana Academy, Ivy Preparatory Academy at Kirkwood for Girls and the Museum School of Avondale Estates are also demonstrating academic excellence. In rural Georgia, schools like Pataula Charter Academy, Baconton Community Charter School, Academy of Classical Education and Lake Oconee Academy have also garnered reputations for success in the classroom.

The high performance and innovation of these schools has led to demand for charter schools throughout Georgia. This fall, there were more than 15,000 students on waitlists at a Georgia charter school.

However, despite the success of many Georgia charter schools, funding for state authorized charter schools remains a barrier to charter school quality. State charter school students are now funded approximately 20 percent or more below traditional school students. That’s because state law requires those state charter schools to receive the average of Georgia’s five lowest funded school districts. In addition to lower funding, most state charter schools have to rent the school buildings where they are located.

The lower funding coupled with facilities costs often means less money for the classroom, lower teacher pay and high teacher turnover. It’s not surprising that some of these state charter schools are struggling academically and operationally. Also, as part of their contract with the state, charter schools are expected to perform above the district average and the state, but this is difficult to achieve when they are given below average funding.

Georgia Charter Schools Association believes that increasing the funding to at least the state average would give these schools the opportunity to excel academically like many of the charter schools that have been authorized by local school districts. Ensuring all charter school students are funded equally and equitably will benefit thousands of Georgia students and the entire state economically. It’s imperative that all of our children have access to a high-quality and transformative education.

Reader Comments 0

9 comments
L_D_
L_D_

This opinion piece is very misleading: By law, charter schools receive the same amount of state QBE funding as other schools.  The first part of the law governing funding for state charter schools (20-2-2089. Funding for state charter schools) is, "The earnings for a student in a state charter school shall be equal to the earnings for any other student with similar student characteristics in a state charter school, regardless of the local school system in which the student resides or the school system in which the state charter school is located..."

The portion of the law that Mr. Roberts is referring to with the "five lowest funded districts" is an ADDITIONAL amount of STATE funds the charter schools receive. 

Also by state law, charter schools are able to use unused school facilities for free.

Quint Bush
Quint Bush

The underfunding of all public schools in the state, especially rural school systems, cripples them, too.

cellophane
cellophane

Charter schools were supposed to do it better and cheaper, that was the sales pitch.  So we vote for Amendment One to get this miracle cure!  And now (surprise!) the charters need more money.  The State Charter Commission even advises its approved schools NOT to use funding as an excuse for not performing.  These schools signed a contract KNOWING what their funding would be and pledged to meet performance goals with that funding.  Cherokee Charter Academy in Canton actually gets more funding per student than its local public school system with their double state allotment, and yet produces mediocre results.  Yes, they have to pay rent and corporate management fees and they struggle with low teacher salaries-- but THAT is the business model its "local board" eagerly signed up for with Charter Schools USA.  And then they whine about money.  How innovative.

GaLatino
GaLatino

Wait... weren't charter schools supposed to produce better results with less resources?  Wasn't that one of the central selling points, that they could show a better model?  GTFOH

Ed Johnson
Ed Johnson

There is no such thing as "public charter school." There are public schools and there are charter schools. Public schools by design are non-excludable and non-rivalrous. No lotteries. No waitlists. Charter schools by design are both excludable and rivalrous, as with lotteries and waitlists. Strange how charter school proponents such Atlanta's superintendent talk up having "waitlists" as proof of the need to grow the number of KIPP and other charter schools. They would rather do that easier, more simple work instead of doing the harder, more complex work of improving the public schools. Speaking of KIPP as a charter schools model, a student tells… https://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2012/03/at-kipp-i-would-wake-up-sick-every.html

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Don'tcha love the selective nature of this opinion piece?


Including schools like Drew (with incredible financial and volunteer support) and Lake Oconee Academy (with incredible parental SES compared to the rest of the county) might just skew the results somewhat.


Let's look at the TYPICAL Georgia charter school, please.  You know, the ones without fancy donors and corporate sponsors, or without the largely self-selected student body!


It's sort of like comparing Mill Creek High School with Fannin County High.  

Robert Muzzillo
Robert Muzzillo

The representation of the positive effects of charter schools in this article is an awesome example of fake news.

phillunney
phillunney

"that’s because state law requires those state charter schools to receive the average of Georgia’s five lowest funded school districts. In addition to lower funding, most state charter schools have to rent the school buildings where they are located." from above.

Georgia has CRITICALLY UNDERFUNDED public education since 2008 to save the state budget. I understand why that was needed, however under today's economy, first and foremost, we need to fund all Georgia Public Schools, once that is accomplished look at funding for Charter Schools where outcomes generally match that of standard public schools.