Last December the Fulton County School Board denied a charter extension to the Fulton Science Academy Middle School. I criticized them at the time for the decision. New facts have emerged and I was wrong and they were right to deny the extension. An audit ordered by the Board revealed problems:
They include a decision to secure a $19 million loan and break ground on a new building for the middle school and companion elementary and high schools, before knowing if the middle school’s charter would be extended.
The School Board is shocked, I say, shocked!
“How did this happen?” Fulton school board member Gail Dean asked during Tuesday’s discussion.
Isn’t the School Board responsible for authorizing the charter and giving the school the money? Aren’t they the ones elected by the people to oversee education in their county? To give Fulton Science Academy Middle School a blank check then express shock when things didn’t go the way they should seems disingenuous to me.
AJC reporters Nancy Badertscher and Daarel Burnette turn this oversight failure by Fulton County into an attack on the proposed Constitutional Amendment allowing the State of Georgia to authorize charter school applications rejected by local school boards.
Elizabeth Hooper, a public school parent from north Fulton, said the audit findings point to problems that can come from giving charter schools autonomy.
“Why would anyone think it is a good idea to remove oversight of how taxpayer money is spent?” she asked. “Taxpayers need to know who is spending their money and where. And the legislators who want to remove that from public view are obviously doing it for reasons that have nothing to do with public education.”
Will Elizabeth Hooper hold her local school board accountable for their failure to oversee a charter school they approved?
Nobody I know of is urging that charter schools be approved with no oversight – in fact charter school advocates want oversight. They want the schools to work and to be successful. Because when they’re successful students are successful and parents will want more charter schools.
HB797, the enabling legislation which outlines how the State will authorize and oversee State authorized charter schools specifically calls for oversight. Among the duties of the Charter School Commission will be:
112 (4) Monitor and annually review and evaluate the academic and financial performance,
113 including revenues and expenditures, of state charter schools and hold the schools
114 accountable for their performance pursuant to the charter and to the provisions of this
115 article.The commission shall also review the citizenship and immigration status of each
116 individual that works at a state charter school and aggregate the information by school
117 on an annual basis. The commission’s duties to monitor the state charter school shall not
118 constitute the basis for a private cause of action;
Additionally, the enabling legislation requires State authorized charter schools to…
200 (2) Give preference in contracting and purchasing of services and materials to businesses
201 incorporated under the laws of this state or qualified to do business within this state and
202 having a regularly maintained and established place of business within this state, so long
203 as such businesses are otherwise similarly situated and qualified as compared to a
204 business from out of state.
Opponents of the proposed Constitutional Amendment will no doubt seize on anything they can to try to defeat it. I plan on addressing as many of those straw man arguments as I can in the days and months leading up to the November vote. I trust the public will get all the facts and make an informed decision on this very important issue.