FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 5
ATLANTA – The Georgia General Assembly delivered a victory for Georgia’s public charter schools on Monday. House Bill 1215 passed the Georgia Senate 45-9 and the Georgia House 113-45. The bill ensures that locally-approved charter schools receive the share of local tax revenue they’re entitled to from districts, gives Georgia students improved access to high-quality public school options and better defines what qualifies as a charter school under Georgia law. In addition, HB 1215 saves the state money by removing an additional audit requirement for Georgia’s virtual charter schools. State lawmakers also approved an essential increase in facilities funding for public charter schools across the state.
The Georgia Charter Schools Association wants to thank Rep. Brad Thomas, HB 1215 sponsor; Sen. John Albers, Senate sponsor; House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones; Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston for their leadership and continued efforts to provide Georgia’s public school students with high-quality and equitable educational opportunities. We’re also grateful to the bipartisan group of lawmakers who passed this key bill for public charter schools.
“These crucial changes to state law will provide greater funding equity for locally-approved public charter schools and give Georgia students more opportunities to access a public school that best fits their needs,” said Tony Roberts, President and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. “We’re also pleased state lawmakers approved a vital increase in state facilities funding. The additional funding will help charters offset the significant facilities costs they pay out of their operating budgets due to a lack of access to affordable capital.”
The Georgia General Assembly approved the following changes to state law under HB 1215:
Revises existing code language related to local revenues
- Closes a loophole in the funding calculation for local charter schools by basing funding on collected local revenue.
HB 1215 requires school districts to “true up” their budgeted tax revenue with their collected tax revenue for purposes of calculating and distributing local funds to charter schools. Prior to the passage of HB 1215, some local districts underestimated their budgeted annual revenue, and there was no requirement for districts to ever “true up” their budget-to-actual amounts with regard to charter school funding.
Allows transfers from traditional schools to locally-approved charter schools after the start of the school year
- Prevents local school districts from prohibiting traditional school students from transferring to charter schools during the school year when an enrollment opportunity becomes available.
HB 1215 ensures that public charter schools have the autonomy to accommodate students on their waitlists throughout the school year as long as they have not exceeded their contractual enrollment caps.
Strengthens the state’s charter school definition
- Refines the state’s charter school definition to better distinguish charter schools from charter systems, College and Career Academies and other school choice models in the state.
The newly approved legislation gives policymakers increased clarity regarding which Georgia schools are actually eligible to receive charter school funding and charter school facility grants. HB 1215 also aligns Georgia’s state-level charter school definition with the federal definition of a public charter school.
Removes performance audit requirement for virtual state charter schools
- Takes away an additional audit requirement that only virtual public charter schools previously had to undergo.
According to the Georgia Department of Audits, the additional requirement was redundant and costly. All Georgia public charter schools will continue to undergo an annual financial audit, and state charter schools will still receive an annual financial evaluation from the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia.
Georgia General Assembly approves additional facilities grant funding
Georgia lawmakers also approved an additional $3 million in funding for charter school facilities in the state’s FY23 budget. This brings Georgia’s Charter School Facility Grant fund up to $7.5 million—which is enough to provide all eligible charter schools a grant award of $75,000 per year to help offset significant facility costs. Public charter schools currently dedicate approximately 12%-18% of their operating budgets to rent and/or facility-specific debt-service payments. However, unlike traditional public schools, public charter schools lack access to local ESPLOST dollars and state capital outlay grants for facility financing.
GCSA is thankful for the leadership provided by House Appropriations Subcommittee Education Chairman Todd Jones and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England. We appreciate their unwavering support for the more than 60,000 students enrolled in a Georgia public charter school.
The FY23 budget and HB 1215 now head to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for approval.
About Georgia Charter Schools Association
The Georgia Charter Schools Association is a nonprofit membership organization for Georgia’s public charter schools and petitioners. Our mission is to support, foster and advocate for the development of high-quality public charter schools and networks that improve opportunities for Georgia students. We believe every child in Georgia should have equal access to a quality and transformative public education.
CONTACT: Michelle Wirth
Director of Communications
Georgia Charter Schools Association