On Thursday, March 29, the Georgia General Assembly approved House Bill 787. HB 787 is a critical bill for the more than 86,000 students enrolled in a Georgia charter school. It provides much-needed increases in funding for state-authorized charter schools. It also will allow for greater financial stability for all charter schools (both District and Commission authorized) by mandating “forward funding” for growth. State charter schools will also become eligible for membership and services through Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs).
“While this bill does not achieve full funding equity, it is a significant step forward for Georgia students who are enrolled in a state charter school,” said Georgia Charter Schools Association President and CEO Tony Roberts. “This bill will help ensure that students and families who choose a public charter school because it best meets the needs of their children will not be financially penalized. Georgia’s public charter school students deserve funding that is on par with students who attend traditional schools in our state.”
(Roberts is pictured on the left with bill sponsor House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones. Roberts is pictured above with bill sponsor Rep. Scott Hilton; Edward Lindsey, partner, Dentons and Andrea Arroyo, GCSA Vice President of Policy and Advocacy.)
“I want to thank the Georgia General Assembly for recognizing that the education of state charter school students is as important as every other student in the state of Georgia,” said Gene Dunn, principal of Coweta Charter Academy. “This funding increase is critical for our students and the 1,000 plus members of the Coweta Charter community. It will allow us to hire additional personnel for academic support and provide needed resources to expand our instructional program. It will also help us retain quality teachers who deserve to be rewarded for the excellent work they are doing in the classroom.”
“The additional funding provided by HB 787 will help ICSAtlanta thrive and continue to improve the way we serve our students,” said ICSAtlanta parent and Board Member Paige Stoecker. “It will allow us to make teacher salaries more competitive with surrounding districts; it will help us to purchase curriculum to support language immersion, the International Baccalaureate Programme, and innovative educational programming; and it will allow us to maintain and improve our facilities.
I feel strongly about this bill personally because the additional funding will benefit my children, Rachael and Keely, who are not just learning languages at ICSAlanta. They are being exposed to people and experiences that will help them develop into global citizens. They will be compassionate, lifelong learners who are committed to improving our world.”
The calls, emails, testimony and engagement on social media from member school leaders,
parents, teachers, students and advocates made a huge difference in the outcome. GCSA is grateful to bill sponsors: House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, Rep. Scott Hilton, Rep. Robert Dickey, Rep. Randy Nix, Rep. Valencia Stovall and Sen. Fran Millar. We are also thankful for the support of the Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, House Speaker David Ralston, and House Education Chair, Rep. Brooks Coleman, our coalition members, charter school leaders, teachers, parents and our community advocates. GCSA would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Dr. Bonnie Holliday, Executive Director of the State Charter Schools Commission; Gregg Stevens, Deputy Director and General Counsel of the State Charter Schools Commission; and Lou Erste, Associate Superintendent for Policy, Charter Schools, District Flexibility, and Governmental Affairs, Georgia Department of Education.
HB 787 includes provisions that will:
- Increase the ‘state supplement’ funding provided to state charter schools.
- Provide ‘forward funding’ to charter schools to help cover the cost of enrollment growth.
- Ensure that state charter schools are eligible for Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) services and membership.
- Provide a portion of capital funding to virtual schools to assist with technology costs.
- Create a grant program to support the replication of high-performing charter schools.
A higher education provision was also added to HB 787 to establish a needs-based financial aid program. For the individual impact of this legislation on your school’s income, the Georgia Department of Education and the State Charter Schools Commission are making calculations to show the increased revenues and will make those available as soon as feasible.
House Bill 787 will now be sent to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. In the past, Gov. Deal has been extremely supportive of legislation to benefit Georgia charter schools. Georgia Charter Schools Association calls on the Governor to continue his commitment to public charter schools by signing this vital bill for Georgia’s children. GCSA encourages school leaders, parents, teachers and advocates to thank the elected officials who voted for this key legislation for Georgia charter schools.
This legislative session GCSA, and our coalition partners also worked to encourage our Legislators to meet their obligations to charter schools under HB 430. We actively engaged with our lawmakers to build on last year’s momentum. While we were able to ensure that a line item to support HB 430 was added to the budget, unfortunately, no new funding was allocated to support charter school facilities. Every year legislators have to make difficult decisions on which priorities to fund. GCSA fought hard to fund HB 430 but ultimately it was not fully funded. We will continue our efforts until Charter schools receive the proper resources to meet the facilities needs of all of our students.