On Monday, May 7, Gov. Nathan Deal signed Georgia House Bill 787. GCSA is grateful for the governor’s continued commitment to public education. The newly signed law will provide an estimated $17 million in additional funding for state-authorized charter schools by increasing the state supplement they currently receive. This critical law will also provide forward funding to help cover the cost of exceptional enrollment growth for all of Georgia’s public charter schools.
The signing came during National Charter Schools Week and the twentieth anniversary of Georgia’s first start-up charter school law. The funding boost provided as a result of the new law will increase the resources available to state charter schools, the ability to hire and retain quality teachers, provide additional classroom resources for students and help offset the facility costs that state charter schools currently pay for through their operating budgets.
“This is a victory for the tens of thousands of Georgia children who will benefit from this new law,” said Tony Roberts, President and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. “I want to thank Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, bill sponsors Rep. Scott Hilton and Sen. Fran Millar and the Georgia General Assembly for ensuring that more Georgia students will have access to a high quality and transformative public education because the public charter schools they attend will receive a funding increase.
We could not have done this without the phone calls, emails and testimony from school leaders, parents, students, board members at our member schools. I am also grateful to our coalition partners: American Federation for Children, ExcelInEd, GeorgiaCAN, and Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Department of Education, especially Lou Erste and the State Charter Schools Commission, including Bonnie Holliday and Gregg Stevens.”
Prior to the signing of HB 787, state charter schools received funding that was approximately 20 percent below the amount that traditional schools received. Under the new law, the state supplement funding state charter schools receive in place of local tax dollars will increase from the five lowest funded districts in the state to a per-pupil amount equal to the state average of local revenues. However, if a charter school is located in a local district that falls below the state average, the charter school will receive the greater of the local district average or the average of the districts that comprise that school’s attendance zone. The amount each school will receive will vary by location and attendance zone.
“This new law will decrease the large gap that currently exists for state charter schools in Georgia,” said Gene Dunn, Principal of Coweta Charter Academy. “Coweta Charter Academy plans to use this vital funding to examine our pay scale and ensure we are adequately paying our teachers for their hard work and attract high-quality educators. We also plan to review additional staffing needs to ensure our students have the academic, social and emotional support they need for continued success.”
“Cherokee Charter Academy is a unique school that reignited my daughter’s passion for learning after she transferred from a nearby traditional school. As a parent, I’m thrilled that Gov. Nathan Deal and members of the Georgia General Assembly have chosen to provide state charter schools with the funding levels they deserve,” said Matthew Wasilewski, a parent of a Cherokee Charter Academy student. “I’m optimistic Cherokee Charter Academy will now receive the funding levels necessary to reduce teacher turnover and enable the school to hire more high-quality educators. I’m also hopeful it will allow the school to upgrade its computers and other technology so my daughter can receive similar resources to those currently enjoyed by traditional school students in Cherokee County.”
In addition, the “forward funding” provided under the law will assist locally approved and state-authorized charter schools with the costs of exceptional enrollment growth. The “forward funding” will significantly reduce funding constraints that have traditionally prevented charter schools from accommodating or enrolling new students.
The new law also ensures that state charter schools are eligible for RESA (Regional Education Service Agency) services and membership; provides an increase in capital funds for brick and mortar state charter schools located in the boundaries of a local school district where the capital revenue (per student) exceeds the state average total capital (per student); increases per-student capital funding for virtual schools to offset certain technology costs; and provides a Department of Education and State Charter School Commission grant program for replicating high performing charter schools. Under the new law, the Department of Audits and Accounts will be required to develop a comprehensive annual report on charter schools that offer virtual instruction.