National study finds many charter schools in Georgia must operate in substandard facilities while many districts having empty facilities fail to provide them to charter schools, fail to include their charter schools in E-SPLOST funding
ATLANTA – A recent study of Georgia’s independent, start-up charter schools has found that, in many cases, students and educators in those schools are forced to learn and work in inadequate facilities, due to their school districts’ failure to follow state law.
Study finds inequity between traditional public schools and charter public schools in Georgia
Research for the study, titled Shortchanged Charters: How Funding Disparities Hurt Georgia’s Charter Schools, (Shortchanged Charters – Facilities Report – Aug. 2011) was sponsored by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and conducted by the Colorado League of Charter Schools with assistance from the Georgia Charter Schools Association.
Results of the study were released at 1 p.m. today at a meeting of the Education Finance Subcommittee No. 3 – State & Local District Partnership and Equity. GCSA President/Chief Executive Officer Tony Roberts and Executive Vice President Andrew Lewis will present the findings of the study as part of a presentation to the subcommittee. Among the key findings are:
• Charter schools are the only public schools in the state of Georgia forced to spend general operating revenue on facilities.
• Most Georgia charter schools have limited to no capacity to serve federally-subsidized meals for students from lower-income families.
• Georgia charter school facilities are too small according to state and national standards.
• State grant funding for public school facilities has provided insufficient benefit for charters.
• Local E-SPLOST referenda are not a significant source of funding for charter school facilities.
• Only one school district in Georgia has been willing to share unused land or facilities with its charter schools.
• Physical education and recreational options are limited for Georgia charter school students.
Georgia charter schools continue to perform well despite insufficiency of facilities
Ironically, in spite of the disparity among learning facilities, the demand for charter schools in Georgia continues to grow as illustrated by the more than 3,000 students on charter school waiting lists. Additionally, according to the Georgia Department of Education’s 2009-10 Annual Report on Georgia’s Charter Schools, charter schools in the state have been performing as well as, if not better than, other public schools in the state for the last four years.
Georgia has a law that addresses the issue of charter school facilities. HB-555, passed in 2009, requires school districts to allow approved charter schools access to unused school facilities without rental charges. However, many districts are not complying with the law.
“An average-sized charter school with the use of a district facility is able to reallocate over $308,000 in revenue from facility costs to classroom instruction compared to a charter school that must rent or purchase a building,” said Jody Ernst, Ph.D., lead researcher on the report. “Yet, in Georgia, only 25 percent of charter schools have been able to gain access to unused district space, even though GCCA reports there are still many district facilities that are being unused.”
“We would like to thank the National Alliance and the Colorado League of Charter Schools for helping shed light on this most important issue in Georgia and nationally,” said GCSA President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Tony Roberts. “In our state, the study makes it clear that students in start-up charter schools are not treated equally when it comes to their school facilities. And charter schools are expected to pay for facilities without even a little assistance for the buildings, their maintenance, and utilities.
“However, these schools continue to provide a quality education and meet the needs of students who find the charter school their best option for a public education,” Roberts said. “While children in charter schools do well both in the areas of student achievement and graduation rates, it is certainly not fair that these students should be relegated to learning environments which are inadequate.”
Subpar charter school facilities appears to be national trend
Georgia is not alone. A 2008 study of charter schools in Colorado produced similar findings, and preliminary data being collected presently for studies in Texas and Indiana reflects the same.
“The key findings in this report are indicative of what we are seeing across the country. Charter schools around the nation do not have adequate access to affordable, quality facilities for children,” said Peter C. Groff, president and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “The release of Shortchanged Charters: How Funding Disparities Hurt Georgia’s Charter Schools is a first step in educating elected officials and other leaders that the 74,000 charter school students in Georgia, and the 1.6 million charter students in the U.S., are public school students that deserve to be treated equitably and have the same quality educational experiences as other public school students.”
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