Our friend John Konop has been engaging in a discussion with the Cherokee School Board about the proposed charter school amendment and his opposition to it. Never one to miss an opportunity to report on opposition to the charter amendment, the AJC’s Maureen Downey has taken note of Konop’s discussions and posted it on her blog a couple of times in July and then again yesterday.
Konop’s most recent letter to Cherokee School Board Member Michael Geist questions him about his support for the charter amendment:
If the CCA goes out of business — which looks increasingly likely — its owner/operators get to keep the $1 million start-up capital (and/or whatever assets they bought with it) and have no liabilities. You supported giving a private company over a million dollars, guaranteed profit, and NO downside risk.
This is a terrible deal for taxpayers. You should NOT support forcing taxpayers to capitalize private companies or give them no-obligation government contracts. As a public school board member, your duty is to protect the school’s assets, not look for creative ways to squander them.
CCA, or Cherokee Charter Academy, was denied by Cherokee County Schools and given funding from the State Board of Education last year. I don’t know where the $1 million in “start-up capital” came from. It wasn’t Cherokee County and it wasn’t the State of Georgia. Consequently, I can’t comment on whether or not that money could be recovered should CCA close it’s doors. That would be based upon the conditions placed upon CCA by the entity giving them that money. As best i can tell, charter schools don’t often receive taxpayer funded start-up capital. Also, charter schools don’t have “no obligation government contracts” they have a charter which describes what their responsibilities are. Additionally, the charter school amendment is in no way “forcing taxpayers to capitalize private companies.” Some charter schools hire management companies some do not. Traditional public schools sign contracts with private companies to provide services too. Are they “forcing taxpayers to capitalize private companies?” Of course not.
Finally, the assertion made that taxpayers are left holding the bag if a charter school fails isn’t accurate. O.C.G.A. 20-2-2089 clearly states:
If a charter is not renewed or is terminated, the commission charter school shall be responsible for all debts of such charter school. The local school system may not assume the debt from any contract for services made between the governing body of the commission charter school and a third party, except for a debt for which the local school system has agreed upon in writing to assume responsibility.
Additionally, State BOE rules describe what happens to the money when a charter school closes:
Upon termination of the charter for a local charter school all assets and unencumbered funds of the terminated local charter school remaining after liabilities have been satisfied shall revert to the local board(s). Upon termination of the charter for a state chartered special school, all assets and unencumbered funds of the state-chartered special school shall revert to the Department.
O.C.G.A. and the State BOE rules describe the reasons a charter school’s charter can be revoked. You don’t have to wait until the end of the charter term to close a poorly run or irresponsible charter school.
To say taxpayers are at risk if charter schools are created isn’t accurate, unless the local school system voluntarily agrees to take on the charter school’s debts. The charter applicants take the risk for leases, management contracts, and whatever other obligations they make, not the taxpayers.
There is plenty of financial and academic oversight of charter schools in current law and in the proposed charter amendment.