by Tony Roberts
By Tony Roberts
When a charter school closes because it has failed to meet the academic goals set out in its charter, it’s disappointing, but as every charter school knows, accountability and performance are the “rules of the road.”
It’s something entirely different when a charter school high school with a 93% graduation rate has to close because it’s become a scapegoat for district-wide mismanagement and overspending. That’s exactly what happened to Tech High School, Atlanta’s only charter high school offering a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focus.
Atlanta Public Schools (APS) informed Tech High on May 31st that it would have $360,000 less in operating funds for the 2012-2013 year. These cuts made the school financially unsustainable, setting its per-pupil funding $3,600 lower than other APS high schools.
Declining tax revenues is part of the story, but so is financial mismanagement. It is estimated that APS’ employee pension fund is in the red to the tune of $39M a year, dating back to the mid 1970’s. To shore up the damage, APS is now passing along its unpaid pension liability to its schools–including charter schools.
There’s just one little problem: no charter school employee in APS has ever benefited from that pension fund. Why should they have to pay for it? Charter schools across Atlanta are reeling from the pension assessment. Others could close.
Tech High School students and their parents are paying an even higher price by being forced to leave their chosen school and scramble for alternatives just weeks before the opening day of school.
This is a school that won the Academic Gold award from the Governor’s office of student achievement for its 13.28% gain in students who met or exceeded testing standards, and where 78% of graduates in the class of 2011 were accepted to two or four-year colleges.
Tech High’s students and teachers worked hard for eight years and have the results to prove it. They don’t deserve this. Shouldn’t the students be put first in every situation–especially this one?