As The School Year Begins A Lesson Is Needed On The Difference Between An Apple And An Orange

Saturday the AJC’s Maureen Downey posted a letter from Herb Garrett head of the Georgia School Superintendent’s Association. The letter warned that should voters approve a Constitutional Amendment allowing the State to approve valid applications for charter schools, these schools will receive several times the funding of traditional public schools. Downey says:

Given this funding disparity, though, it would make far more sense now for aspiring charter schools to seek state approval rather than local.

Of course traditional public schools do not live on State money alone. As every property owner in Georgia knows schools receive money in the form of property taxes. Many school systems also have ESPLOSTs. Thus, the average per student funding (full time equivalent or FTE) in Georgia is just short of $8600.00 Some systems spend more per FTE, some less. State charter schools will not be receiving more than the $8600 per FTE traditional public schools currently spend. Sen. Fran Millar, quoted in the article, points out the State will give State approved charter schools approximately 75% of what public schools spend per FTE, less austerity cuts (contrary to what Garrett claimed in his letter State charter schools have and will continue to receive austerity cuts). This puts per FTE funding for State approved charter schools in the low $6000 range. More than the State gives to traditional public schools per PTE but much less than the total of what is spent per student. Out of that money State charter schools will have to do everything to educate students traditional public schools must do without the additional revenue stream of local property taxes and without the power to put an ESPLOST on the ballot.

I’m not sure how Downey thinks it will be better for those seeking to form a charter school to “seek state approval rather than local.” The opposite is true, which is exactly what we want. We want charter applicants to work with their local school boards and we want local school boards to be receptive to quality charter applications. We want the same system we had before the Supreme Court tossed out HB881 which was working just fine. Local systems created over a hundred charter schools while HB881 was in effect. The State approved 16. That fact should put to rest the fear-mongering by opponents that State approved charter schools are going to pop up across Georgia like mushrooms after a rainstorm.

In addition to the inaccurate claim by Garrett that charter schools have not experienced austerity cuts, he very cleverly implies Governor Deal has ordered more cuts to school funding. In fact the AJC reports the school funding portions of DOE have not been asked to make budget cuts. I’ll let the reader decide his motive for omitting that piece of information.

Opponents of the charter amendment push the notion that Georgia is bleeding schools dry through lack of funding. To counter this claim I’ll point you to the July 27 “Friday Facts” from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation:

EduFact: It was reported this week that the state’s portion of total K-12 funding fell below 40 percent in 2010, down from 45 percent in 2007, despite significant efforts to protect education spending as much as possible during the recession. What does this mean for overall education spending? The table below (follow the link above to see the table – Buzz) shows that as of 2009 Georgia was still spending more per student than its neighboring states – and more than 20 other states. In order to adjust for costs of living differences, it’s helpful to measure spending as a percentage of state personal income. Using this measure, Georgia’s total K-12 spending ranks in the top 10. Total spending includes capital spending. Georgia’s 2009 capital spending per student was $1,640, 10th highest in the nation. If Georgia reduced construction spending to the level of a similar state like North Carolina, it could save more than $800 million a year. This is particularly worth examining as we continue furloughing teachers and as many school systems face daunting budget challenges.

Are we getting the bang for the buck we should be getting given we’re in the top 10 in spending? I think you know the answer. The status quo isn’t good enough folks. It’s time for change. The charter amendment is not a magic wand but it is a powerful tool we can use to improve the education our students receive.


  1. Dave Bearse says:

    The state is providing 40% (per GPPF) of the $8,600 per FTE to public schools, or $3,440 FTE. The proposal is that the state provide $6,000 FTE to state-chartered schools. That’s not “several times”, but its not far off double. It’s transparent the proposal is to take money on an FTE basis that would have been directed to traditional schools, and direct it to state-chartered schools.

    • If traditional schools continue to receive the formula funding for every student who shows up how are State charter schools “taking money” from traditional schools?

      • John Konop says:


        In all due respect, if a business gross sales takes in less revenue it does affect fixed overhead. And the school model is based on ratios and fixed cost. What makes the model even more difficult is when Charter schools do not take their ration of special needs students. As you know the cost of educating and transportation the students can be substantially more.

        • John,

          If that’s the case then we need to pass a law saying nobody can move without the school board’s approval. People moving is “taking money” from the schools.

          Charters do take special need students BTW.

          • John Konop says:


            …….. If that’s the case then we need to pass a law saying nobody can move without the school board’s approval. People moving is “taking money” from the schools…

            On a macro you would count the amount of kids in the public system verse the amount of kids in the charter schools. If the amount of students are less in the public schools it would be hard to argue that their fixed cost as a ratio just went up.

            …….. Charters do take special need students BTW……..

            Currently today public schools have about 11% of students in special needs programs. If a charter school does not take at least 11% you understand the problem?

            • The QBE formula accounts for special needs students.

              Also, not all special needs students cost the same.

              And don’t forget schools systems keep all their locally raised money, no matter how many kids show up. Up to a certain point traditional schools are better off with fewer students because they keep the local money, can lower class sizes etc…

              • John Konop says:


                I have heard from charter supporters who do want to pay for transportation cost or special needs students. They constantly remind people they are short funded without reflecting the issues with transportation and special needs. Also do you really think QBC accurately reflects the cost of special needs? All I am saying is we need to all get REAL about the situation without the partisan BS………..

  2. John Konop says:

    Let’s have a straight conversation about this issue. You can read the comments on the AJC blog or listen to politicians speak at the party level and some do want to end public schools. On the other side we have a system that is resistant to change. The frustrating part is this debate has become about irrational ideology rather than pragmatic solutions.

    I hear one side call public schools socialism, yet the father of the free market system Adam Smith was in clear support of public schools for our economy ie need for trained/educated work force. I hear the other side resistant to listening to innovative ideas that could improve the system and save money.

    The part that is most hypocritical is we have social conservatives that want mandates on parents not aborting special needs children, yet they do want to factor the cost of educating them when we formulate the equation for charter schools. In second place is so called fiscal conservatives that support funding the schools with tax payers money, and putting the private people getting the revenue at less risk than tax payers. In one breath they scream about Obama with solar energy loan we lost 500 million on, and in the other breath they support the same style of funding on a local level with no real controls.

    The truth is we need more options not less And we do have room for home school, charter schools, private schools and public schools. But we must do it in a responsible manner and cut the political BS out.

    Why not focus on reforms rather than tearing the system apart?

    1)Create a home school/ public school option that allows students to take classes in high school similar to college enrolment over block schedules. Also allow the students to eligible for extracurricular activities. This would create flexibility for students who can intern/co-op, as well as uniting the community.

    2) Eliminate many of the end of the year testing. The top countries in the world test way less than us. This would cut back on a lot of administrative overhead.

    3) Promote a co-op/intern/joint enrollment style education system based on aptitude. Use the current infrastructure in partnership with colleges, Vo-tech schools……. This would create job ready graduates after high school or better prepared college students. Also it would lower the drop-out rate.

    4) Require administrators to teach one class. This would keep them in touch with the system and decisions they make.

    5) Let students replace gym credits with a sport in high school. This would create more time for studying, intern/co-op and core classes.

    • benevolus says:

      “Eliminate many of the end of the year testing. ”
      You’re going to have to get people to stop screaming OVERPAID UNION TEACHERS first if we are going to trust them with more responsibility/judgment.

      “Require administrators to teach one class.”
      Good idea! Teachers might get the chance to use the bathroom then!

    • Lea Thrace says:

      Mr. Konop,

      You make too much sense. That unfortunately means that your rational thoughts will be drowned out by idealogues who refuse to root their ideas in reality. This conversation needs to be a 50/50 partnership with both sides hearing AND listening. Sadly, I am not sure that in this world of Rep vs Dem, con vs lib, choice/voucher advocates vs public school advocates, that will ever happen.


  3. Technocrat says:

    Obviously Charter schools are not burdened by the 25% off the top – SERIOUSLY non productive central office administration. What happened to the time when each Principal was responsible to Superintendent directly and showed up at EVERY Board of Ed meeting to answer budgets and issue questions. Could it be the quality of employees have been driven down intentionally?

      • John Konop says:

        The local charter school in Cherokee paid a 300k yearly fee to the parent charter company not including administrative cost. And if the schools goes under they just kept the cash and used tax payer money to buy the real-estate. Finally the biggest reason administrative cost is out of control in public schools is via the failed No Child Left Behind compliance created by the Bush administration with Ted Kennedy.

        As I said let’s fix the problem and stop pointing fingers, because both parties have hands all over this mess.

        • CCFRG says:

          Important to note that in systems with charter schools- that per student allotment for kids in these schools is paid out of the central office account.

  4. Three Jack says:

    Simple solution could be had if not for the majority of parents looking to the government as the decider when it comes to education (not to mention the false perception held by many of school being ‘free’ daycare).

    Georgia should lead the way in education innovation and choice. Online classes should become common. Vouchers should be provided to every parent who actually wants to play a role in educating their children. Then the families can choose between government, quasi-government/charter and private schools based on the needs of each child along.

    It is absolutely insane that we strive for education mediocrity by removing school choice simply based on a street address. If American workers were bound by such an illogical job placement restriction, there would be a revolution. This bogus battle over charter funding is nothing more than a distraction. It is time for Georgia’s elected officials to grow a pair and announce major educational reforms based on school choice. And any parent who opposes should be tried for child abuse.

    • John Konop says:

      The voucher system helps mainly people in my income bracket or higher. A top private school cost about 12k for elementary, 15k for middle school and 18k for high school. At the end families like mine would get a nice credit, and most could not afford the private schools. And this is exactly why Adam Smith was for public education. He understood that unless we give everyone an equal opportunity for education than at the end, we will hurt the economy.

      And the voucher system would end up fostering further a have and have not society. And this one of the key issues Adam Smith warned about in the bible of free economics “Wealth of Nations”. I am 100% against affirmative action, but I am 100% for equal opportunity.

      • Three Jack says:

        John, I realize after many postings that you rely upon Adam Smith’s analysis from 200+ years ago to determine how children in the 21st century should be educated. While he was a brilliant man, it is doubtful that he could have imagined what would become of government education in the age of overpaid administrators, teachers and others involved in the failed system.

        The availability of quality education choices in a voucher system would theoretically serve to keep costs in line. That said, why should a voucher education system punish those who strive for a better life. You say it will reward those like yourself in higher income brackets…good! That is what Americans used to consider a benefit of hard work, the ability to treat oneself better than those who lack initiative to succeed or fail to take advantage of the many prosperity opportunities afforded us as citizens of this country. Again it boils down to taking personal responsibility vs. demanding government guaranteed outcomes. Vouchers would put the onus back where it belongs, on the parents.

        • John Konop says:

          You would have a valid point if private and or charter schools demonstrated they could do it at the amount we pay now. We know for a fact a good private school cannot do it for the current amount per pupil. And in the charter system has been a mixed bag. That is why I would keep trying to reform public schools and use charter schools that can demonstrate they are fiscally viable while meeting quality standards. But it is irrational to give charter schools public tax payer money, with current lack of fiscal controls in place. We have already been scammed, by charter schools that left tax payers holding the bag, while the private venture walk away with our cash. As I said, I was against the Obama loans to solar companies with no controls, recycling plants in Cherokee county we got left holding a 18 million dollar debt, charter school in Roswell, ………. being a fiscal conservative may not be vague in this environment.

          • John, you keep saying charter schools have no fiscal controls. That’s not true. The charter is for a fixed length of time and they have meetings with the people who issues the charter to determine whether or not they are meeting expectations.

            Also, I completely disagree with this statement “We know for a fact a good private school cannot do it for the current amount per pupil.”

            I send my kids to a private school, the tuition is much less than the public schools receive per student and they are getting an excellent education. Sure, we don’t have a state of the art science lab or a football stadium but your statement isn’t backed up by the facts.

            • John Konop says:

              ………. you keep saying charter schools have no fiscal controls. That’s not true. The charter is for a fixed length of time and they have meetings with the people who issues the charter to determine whether or not they are meeting expectations……..

              In all due respect I can list numerous situation tax payers took loses. I have proposed a solution that would eliminate a lot of the risk. Kelly McCutchen of the Georgia Public Policy who supports charter schools agrees with me that you guys have not protected tax payers correctly with large charter schools.


              ……. I send my kids to a private school, the tuition is much less than the public schools receive per student and they are getting an excellent education. Sure, we don’t have a state of the art science lab or a football stadium but your statement isn’t backed up by the facts……

              Cost Of Walker and this is about the same for top private schools.

              Half-Day Pre-K


              Full-Day Pre-K


              Full-Day Plus Pre-K


              Year-Round Plus Pre-K




              Lower School


              Middle School


              Upper School


            • Three Jack says:

              John, Buzz beat me to the punch regarding your false statement about private school cost. There is no way to know what will occur if parents demand choice with all options on the table. More online classes would decrease cost. Specialized training for vocational pursuits would help steer students in a proper career path thus reducing wasteful time and cost. Open your mind Konop, there is opportunity here to improve through choice and competition.

            • John Konop says:

              I guess you are for bailouts for charter schools but banks…………… A fiscal conservative wants proper controls with tax payer money no matter if it is a charter school, banks……….

              …..The governor’s deputy chief of staff for policy says that his bailout of charter schools reflects his deep commitment to charters, and the money will come from either additional revenues that the state may generate or from cutting programs……

              ….The state announced today that it plans to make up the difference in costs for the charter schools stranded by the state Supreme Court ruling that the state Charter Schools Commission was illegal. A rescue line has been thrown to Odyssey School, in Newnan, Atlanta Heights Charter in Atlanta, Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology in Statesboro, Cherokee Charter Academy in Canton, Coweta Charter Academy in Senoia, Fulton Leadership Academy in south Fulton County, Heritage Preparatory Academy in Atlanta and Pataula Charter Academy in Edison. (Not getting state funding are the two commission schools that already won local approval, Museum School of Avondale and Ivy Prep of Gwinnett.)

              Hames stressed that the bailout was a short-term solution to an urgent situation. As to the issue of academic performance, Hames said she is aware that at least one of the schools performed worse than its district but said the governor gave all the existing schools the benefit of the doubt on performance.

              “This is a short-term solution. We are only in favor of charter schools that result in better public schools,” she said. “We are very aware of the performance data but a school can’t turn things around overnight. They may have begun with kids that were already behind. They have only been open for a year. That is not saying that we will do this next year. But for now, this was the right thing to do. Moving forward, we will be looking closely at performance data.”

              I pointed out to Hames that teachers are going to feel outrage that the state is willing to dig for as much as $10 million to bail out these charter schools while reneging on such commitments as bonuses for National Board Certified Teachers……


              • Three Jack says:

                This is not about the past John, it’s about the future. I have been and continue to be against charter schools as they are operating today because government still has too much say in the programs and they do not introduce real competition. As I wrote in an earlier post, we need comprehensive reform based on school choice with a mixture of government, quasi-government/charter and private schools available to citizens of Georgia in order to create a competitive environment.

                Choice = competition = higher quality for lower cost. Right now we have no choice, no competition, mediocre to low quality for high cost. It’s up to our elected officials to make this happen even though many parents will complain (see Cherokee County) because they simply want ‘free’ daycare with little to no responsibility in choosing quality education outlets for their children.

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