August 20, 2013

#Back2School Choice Week continues: Atlanta charter schools

By #Back2School Choice Week continues: Atlanta charter schools

As Pacific Legal Foundation celebrates school choice this week, we will highlight cases from our K-12 Education Project.

One such case is Atlanta Independent School System a.k.a. Atlanta Public Schools et al., v. Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Inc., et al.  Atlanta Public Schools (APS) decided to tackle its massive — several hundred million dollar — unfunded pension liability problem.  So it transferred 40 million dollars from its local revenue to apply to the liability.  But that local revenue pool is the primary source of several charter schools’ public dollars under a clearly defined, statutory funding formula.  Though that financial decision cost charters almost 3 million dollars for the school year — up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per school — charter employees had never even benefited from APS pension program. The charters successfully sued APS at the lower court level and APS filed an appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

In June, PLF filed an amicus brief, arguing: APS’s attempt to starve charter schools of funding was just the latest battle between the education establishment and charter schools; that the equities favored the charter schools; neither APS nor the Georgia Supreme Court may amend the law in question to carve out pension obligations from the funding formula’s strict requirements.  Further, PLF explained that charter schools put public funds to good use, with excellent results.  The brief cites studies that show public schools often perform better than their traditional public school counterparts in the areas of student performance and parent satisfaction.  This is, in part, because charters have more flexibility to operate outside of the burdensome public education bureaucracy.  But if APS makes bad financial decision, it should not be able to sidestep the law and saddle Atlanta charters with the very red tape they were designed to avoid. The charters need the funding baseline guaranteed to them by law.

PLF’s brief cites to excellent data and research from several key organizations. For instance the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has produced studies showing how funding disparities hurt Georgia’s charter schools, how public charters can help improve student achievement and help students of all backgrounds succeed. The Georgia Charter Schools Association has detailed information on how Georgia charter schools perform, how satisfied Peach-State parents are with their charter experiences, and the organization explains how the demand for charter education is so high that children are routinely added to waitlists.  The Center for Education Reform explored the funding gap between traditional public schools and public charters.  While we wait on the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision, you can read more about those studies in our brief.

Continue to check our blog this week for more information on PLF’s work and #Back2SchoolChoice Week!

 

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