Measuring Up

 



Georgia

TOTAL SCORE:
138 out of 228

Rank: 22 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1994
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  110
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  69,392

Georgia did not pass any legislation in 2013 impacting its score and ranking.

Georgia’s score increased from 135 points in 2013 to 138 points this year. The score changed because of adjustments in our methodology for Component #4 (Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability System Required). Its ranking went from #16 to #22. This drop had more to do with the aggressive changes made in other states than with any steps backward in Georgia.

Potential areas for improvement include ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities, enacting statutory guidelines to govern the expansion of high-quality charter schools through multischool charter contracts and/or multicharter contract boards, and creating authorizer accountability requirements.

Do Georgia's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Georgia's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Georgia law does not place any caps on charter school growth.

12

1A. No limits are placed on the number of public charter schools or students (and no geographic limits).

1B. If caps exist, adequate room for growth.

N/A

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Georgia law allows new start-ups, public school conversions, and virtual schools.

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2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Georgia law allows local school boards, a state charter school commission, and the state board of education to serve as authorizers. It requires those seeking a state charter school with a state-wide attendance area to apply directly to the commission and to provide a copy of their application as information only to the local board in which the school will be located. For those seeking a state charter school with a defined attendance area, the law requires the application to be submitted concurrently to the local board(s) impacted by the proposal and the commission. The law provides that the commission cannot consider the application until it is denied at the local level or no action is taken on it at the local level within 60 days of submission. The law requires the state board of education to review and allows it to overrule the approval or renewal of a state charter school by the state charter school commission within 90 days of such decision.

Georgia law also allows applicants to appeal denials by local school boards to the state board of education, who serves as the authorizer if it overturns the local school board’s denial. Such schools are called “state-chartered special schools.”

There is considerable authorizing activity by local school boards and the state charter school commission.

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3A. The state allows two or more authorizing options (e.g., school districts and a state charter schools commission) for each applicant with direct application to each authorizer.

4. Authorizer & Overall Program Accountability System Required

weight = 2 | Possible total = 12

Georgia law requires the state charter school commission to submit an annual report to the state board of education regarding the academic performance and fiscal responsibility of all state charter schools. No similar report is required for local school board authorizers or the state board of education.

While the law does not require the legislature and governor to regularly review the performance of the state board of education and the state charter school commission as authorizers, they can do so at any time. In addition, the legislature and governor can remove the ability of the state board of education and the state charter school commission to continue authorizing (the entities that gave them that authority).

Georgia law requires the state board of education to submit an annual report to the General Assembly on the status of the charter school program.

6

4A. At least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state.

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities.

N/A

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report, which summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

4D. A regular review process by authorizer oversight body.

4E. Authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

4F. Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Georgia law establishes that authorizers may withhold up to 3% of state and local charter school funding for administrative costs.

State rule provides that all authorizers that withhold funds from charter schools have to annually report on the use of such funds to the state department of education.

Georgia law allows for state authorized charter schools to contract with local boards of education for administrative or transportation services. It does not contain a similar provision pertaining to district-authorized charter schools or a similar provision allowing such contracting with non-district authorizers. The law also doesn’t prohibit authorizers from requiring schools to purchase services from them.

6

5A. Adequate funding from authorizing fees (or other sources).

5B. Guaranteed funding from authorizing fees (or from sources not subject to annual legislative appropriations).

5C. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

5D. Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.

5E. Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

6. Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Georgia law, regulations, and guidance establish a detailed process for seeking a charter and for decision-making by authorizers. They provide explicit application elements for all schools and additional application elements specific to conversion schools, virtual schools, and educational service providers. They do not provide additional application elements specific to replications.

The law doesn’t require authorizers to issue requests for proposals.

State rule requires an interview of applicants. While a public meeting to review applications is common practice, it is not required by law or rule.

Consistent with Georgia law relating to public entities, charter approvals or denials must be made at a public meeting. The law requires authorizers must provide a written statement of any denial to the petitioner and state board of education or local board.

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6A. Application elements for all schools.

6B. Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

6C. Additional application elements specific to virtual schools.

6D. Additional application elements specific when using educational service providers.

6E. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6F. Authorizer-issued request for proposals (including application requirements and approval criteria).

6G. Thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6H. All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

7. Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Georgia law defines the charter as a performance-based contract between the petitioner and authorizer, utilizing terms set forth in the charter law and the petition and approved by the authorizer.

The law requires the petition to define the roles, powers, and responsibilities of schools but not authorizers. These items are incorporated into the contract.

The law requires the petition to generally define academic and operational performance expectations, which are incorporated into the contract. However, it does not require the contract to more specifically define academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.

Under Georgia law, charters are issued for a minimum of five years (unless applicants seek a shorter term), and may not exceed 10 years.

The law does not require contracts to include provisions addressing the unique environment of virtual schools.

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7A. Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.

7B. Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. Defining academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged, based on a performance framework that includes measures and metrics for, at a minimum, student academic proficiency and growth, achievement gaps, attendance, recurrent enrollment, postsecondary readiness (high schools), financial performance, and board stewardship (including compliance).

7D. Providing an initial term of five operating years (or a longer term with periodic high-stakes reviews.

7E. Including requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools, if applicable.

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

The law does not require the collection and analysis of student outcome data at least annually by authorizers consistent with performance framework outlined in the contract and does not require authorizers to issue annual school performance reports. However, it does require charter schools to complete an annual performance report and provide it to the local board, state department of education, and parents and guardians of students.

Georgia law requires that charter schools define and follow a prudent financial plan, and that they report annually on fiscal performance, consistent with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

Georgia law requires authorizers to ensure that charter school performance goals are being met and the school is complying with applicable accountability provisions and fiscal plans.

The law does not provide that authorizers may notify their schools of perceived problems and give them opportunities to remedy such problems and does not provide authorizers with the authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation. However, in certain instances, the law allows the state board of education to propose that an amendment be made to a charter to address concerns raised by a district leading to the district seeking termination.

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8A. The collection and analysis of student outcome data at least annually by authorizers (consistent with performance framework outlined in the contract).

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct or require oversight activities.

8D. Annual school performance reports which are made public.

8E. Authorizer notification to their schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

8F. Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

9. Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal, and Revocation Decisions

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Under Georgia law, charter schools seeking renewal must submit a petition to their authorizer, comply with many of the petition requirements applicable to those seeking an initial charter, and provide an executive summary giving an overview of the school’s performance from the school’s perspective and information demonstrating its success. The law also requires renewal applications to include a copy of the school’s original petition with all proposed changes highlighted. The law requires authorizers to base their renewal decisions on this record.

Georgia law provides that the state board of education may terminate a charter if a majority of the parents or guardians of students enrolled at or a majority of the faculty and instructional staff employed at the charter school vote by a majority vote to request the termination of its charter at a public meeting called with two weeks' advance notice and for the purpose of deciding whether to request the state board to declare the charter null and void.

Georgia law provides that the state board of education may also terminate a charter if, after providing reasonable notice to the charter school and an opportunity for a hearing, the state board finds a failure to comply with any recommendation or direction of the state board with respect to a certain section of state law, a failure to adhere to any material term of the charter, including but not limited to the performance goals set forth in the charter, a failure to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management, a violation of applicable federal, state, or local laws or court orders, the existence of competent substantial evidence that the continued operation of the charter school would be contrary to the best interests of the students or the community, or a failure to comply with any provision of a certain section of state law.

Georgia law provides that the state board of education may also terminate a charter upon the written request of a local board for termination of a charter for a local charter school located within its school system if, prior to making such request, the local board provided reasonable notice to the charter school and an opportunity for a hearing, and determined the existence of any of the grounds described in a certain section of state law.

Georgia law requires authorizers to base their renewal decisions on evidence presented in the renewal application and provides authorizers with discretion in the length of the renewal term offered (not to exceed 10 years).

Consistent with Georgia law relating to public entities, charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions must be made at a public meeting. The law does not require authorizers to state reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

Georgia law provides a dissolution process that ensures timely notification of parents regarding closure and alternate school options, the handling of school assets and unencumbered funds.

The law does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year and does not require authorizers to issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

12

9A. Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

9B. Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.

9C. Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

9D. Clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9E. Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract (in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract).

9F. Authorizer authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9G. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

9H. Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).

9I. All charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

9J. Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

10. Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Georgia law explicitly allows charter schools to contract with educational services providers. Within the application, it requires applicants to submit any intended contracts for the provision of educational management services and a disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest. However, state law and regulations do not require applicants to detail performance data for such ESPs, do not require essential elements of a performance contract with an ESP, and do not explicitly require charter boards to be operating completely independent of any ESPs.

4

10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and non-profit) explicitly allowed to operate all or parts of schools.

10B. The charter application requires 1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, including documentation of academic achievement and (if applicable) school management success; and 2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.

10C. A performance contract is required between the independent public charter school board and the ESP, setting forth material terms including but not limited to: performance evaluation measures; methods of contract oversight and enforcement by the charter school board; compensation structure and all fees to be paid to the ESP; and conditions for contract renewal and termination.

10D. The material terms of the ESP performance contract must be approved by the authorizer prior to charter approval.

10E. School governing boards operating as entities completely independent of any educational service provider (e.g., must retain independent oversight authority of their charter schools, and cannot give away their authority via contract).

10F. Existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Public Charter School Boards

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Under Georgia law, local boards control and manage charter schools authorized by them, and start-up charter schools authorized by local boards must provide a statement in their petition indicating their governing board is subject to the control and management of the local board. State-authorized charter schools have their autonomy grounded in the state constitution provision for “special schools” and they act as their own LEAs and fiscal agents.

6

11A. Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds, incur debt, and pledge, assign or encumber assets as collateral).

11B. Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).

11C. School governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Georgia law provides that charter schools must be open to any student residing in the district or covered in an inter-district agreement.

Georgia law requires charter schools to admit students via a random selection process when the number of applications exceeds the capacity of a program, class, grade level, or building.

Georgia law provides that a district-authorized start-up charter school may (but is not required to) give enrollment preference to a sibling of a student enrolled in the school, a sibling of a student enrolled in another local school designated in the charter, a student whose parent or guardian is a member of the governing board of the charter school or is a full-time teacher, professional, or other employee at the charter school, students matriculating from a local school designated in the charter, and a sibling of a nonresident student currently enrolled in the charter school.

Georgia law provides that a district-authorized conversion charter school may give enrollment preference to a sibling of a student enrolled in the school or in any school in a high school cluster, a student whose parent or guardian is a member of the governing board of the charter school or is a full-time teacher, professional, or other employee at the charter school, students who were enrolled in the local school prior to its becoming a charter school, students who reside in the charter attendance zone specified in the charter, and a sibling of a nonresident student currently enrolled in the charter school.

Georgia law provides that a state chartered special school may give enrollment preference to a child of a full-time teacher, professional, or other employee of the state chartered special school or to a sibling of a student currently enrolled in the state chartered special school. There is no provision that limits the total percentage of such students.

6

12A. Open enrollment to any student in the state.

12B. Lottery requirements.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, siblings of enrolled students enrolled at a charter school.

12D. Optional enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.

13. Automatic Exemptions from Many State and District Laws and Regulations

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Georgia law provides that charter schools can request blanket waivers from state and local rules and regulations in exchange for accountability promises or negotiate individualized waivers. It allows charter schools to seek waivers from teacher certification requirements as part of overall waivers.

6

13A. Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.

13B. Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

14. Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Georgia law provides that charter schools are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

12

14A. Charter schools authorized by non-local board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.

14B. Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

15. Multischool Charter Contracts and/or Multicharter Contract Boards Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Georgia law is silent regarding these arrangements, although some multi-school charter contracts and/or multi-charter contract boards have been established in practice.

2

15A. Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

Georgia law is silent about charter eligibility and access.

1

16A. Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs available to non-charter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extra-curricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at non-charter public schools for a fee by a mutual agreement.

17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

For district-authorized schools, Georgia law provides that the district is the LEA and retains responsibility for providing special education services. For state-authorized schools, the law provides that the school is the LEA and retains the responsibility for providing special education services.

The law does not provide clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs.

4

17A. Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.

17B. Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).

18. Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Georgia law provides that local and state boards must treat a start-up charter school no less favorably than other local schools with regard to funds for instruction, school administration, transportation, food services and, where feasible, building programs.

Under Georgia law, district-authorized charter schools must be included in state funding formula quality basic education (QBE) earnings, applicable QBE grants, non-QBE state grants, and applicable federal grants to the local school system.
Conversion charter schools must be treated no less favorably and the local and state boards must treat start-up charters no less favorably than other local schools with respect to funds for instruction, school administration, transportation, food services, and, where feasible, building programs.

In a national study of charter school funding (Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, 2010), Georgia charter schools were receiving on average $8,880 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $11,686 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $2,806 per pupil – or 24.0% - less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals some significant inequities for both operational and capital funding (see component #19 for information on capital issues).

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18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

18B. Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding, and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Georgia law provides a per-pupil, needs-based capital-funding program that is distributed through a competitive grant process. The state appropriated roughly $1.6 million to the program for the 2013-14 school year.

Georgia law provides state charter schools and state chartered special schools with an amount equal to the state-wide average total capital revenue per full-time equivalent, as determined by the state department of education. Statute notes that such funding is subject to the appropriations by the General Assembly, but that such schools shall be treated consistently with all other public schools in the state, pursuant to the respective statutory funding formulas and grants. Currently, the state is providing approximately $1,100 per pupil for this item.

Georgia law provides charters with access to tax-exempt debt through county development authorities.

Georgia law requires each local board of education to make available any vacant or otherwise unused facility to locally-authorized charters at no lease cost, with any additional terms of use to be negotiated by the parties.

Statute also now indicates that local charter schools which petition to be authorized by the commission must be allowed to continue the use of all facilities, equipment, and other assets it used prior to the expiration or rescission of its charter with a local board of education; however, the local school board can begin to charge or continue to charge a reasonable fee for use of the facilities if the school switches to the commission.

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19A. A per-pupil facilities allowance which annually reflects actual average district capital costs.

19B. A state grant program for charter school facilities.

19C. A state loan program for charter school facilities.

19D. Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allow charter schools to have their own bonding authority.

19E. A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for public charter school facilities.

19F. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to non-charter public schools.

19G. Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.

19H. Prohibition of facility-related requirements stricter than those applied to traditional public schools.

20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Georgia law provides that charter teachers get equal access to the state retirement system. A state attorney general opinion held that charter school teachers are required to participate in the state retirement system.

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20A. Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.

20B. Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).