Brighter Georgia

Response to Letter from Herb Garrett of Georgia Superintendents Association

To: All Charter School Leaders and Board Members
From: Tony Roberts, President of Georgia Charter Schools Association
Date: August 7, 2012
Re: Response to Letter from Herb Garrett of Georgia Superintendents Association

Dear School Leaders and Board Members:

A letter to school superintendents from Herb Garrett was posted on Friday in Maureen Downey’s blog on the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s website. You may hear from parents, community leaders, and other stakeholders in your area, so I am writing our response to the inaccuracies and selective exclusion of relevant facts in the letter.

First, Garrett insists that state special charter schools have not received their share of austerity reductions, which you all know is absolutely false. Tight budgets have caused stress and strain across the state, and public charter schools have felt the pinch even worse because of their already reduced funding.

Second, Garrett uses DOE funding numbers to insinuate that charter schools receive more funding than traditional schools. Of course, the key figure he conveniently omits is the local funding share received by traditional schools. As you all know, no local tax money flows to state special charter schools. The additional dollars in the HB 797 funding formula is intended to partially offset the loss of local dollars when a charter application is denied by a school board. To put this into context, the funding formula results in an average $6,900 per student amount for state special charters, while the state-local average for traditional schools is $9,700. Because these charter schools operate only on state funding, they will receive about 70 percent of the total amount that local school systems spend. To use an extreme example, a state charter school would receive about $6,400 for a regular education high school student. At Atlanta Public Schools, the system would spend $15,000 on that same exact student. As they say on infomercials; but wait, there’s more!

Remember that while capital expenses must come out of that limited state funding for state special schools, local school systems have entirely separate funding mechanisms for capital expenditures. Virtually every county in Georgia has an education sales tax for capital expenditures. One penny of sales tax equals about $1.8 billion statewide. In addition, the state funds hundreds of millions of dollars in capital outlay each year for systems to use to supplement their penny sales taxes. Of course, you will not see any of this in Garrett’s letter.

Additionally, he mentions a recent AJC article that reports the state is still in budget cutting mode. While that is certainly true, he failed to mention that the same AJC article he referenced makes it clear that none of the proposed cuts would come in education. I guess he just missed that part of the story.

One final, but important point, local school superintendents and board members were adamantly against any local dollars going to charter schools that were denied by a local school board. The final version of HB 797 was negotiated to ensure that was the case – the language is written right there into the law. So, to recap, they insist on no local money going to state-approved charters, and then get upset about the state money going to charters.

I think it is interesting to note that the only time Garrett mentions students in his letter is when he is talking about per student funding. The charter community knows better. We don’t see students as faceless dollar signs with some assigned value concocted in a formula. Every day we see students thrive that at one time were frustrated in a traditional school. Shame on us if we let this November vote be all about money. It is about children, and giving them the opportunity to succeed.

Tony Roberts, President and CEO

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