This bill would amend Title 20 of the O.C.G.A. to repeal the article relating to the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and establish the State Charter Schools Commission. It begins with philosophical statements about state charter schools complementing public schools and not supplanting them.
The bill would establish the Commission in collaboration with the DOE under the supervision of the SBOE. Start-up funds would be allocated by the General Assembly and any other funds that could be secured by the SBOE. The Commission would be appointed by the SBOE, composed of seven members: three from a list of no fewer than six recommended by the Governor, two from a list of no less than four recommended by the President of the Senate, and two from a list of no less than four recommended by the Speaker. Appointments must be complete before the first regular SBOE meeting in February 2013. Terms would be for two years, but a procedure is outlined to eventually stagger the terms. Vacancies would be filled by the SBOE, following the same procedure as outlined for each entity making recommendations. A bachelor’s degree would be required to serve, and the bill requires diverse membership representing race, gender, geography with experience in finance, administration, law and education.
The first meeting would be no later than
October 1, 2012 March 1, 2013 and bimonthly thereafter. A quorum would consist of four members. They would determine procedures for examining charter petitions and could use DOE personnel to assist. Commissioners would receive no pay, only reimbursement for expenses, and would be prohibited from accepting gifts, loans, contributions, services, promise, favors or any other thing of value.
The Commission’s powers would include:
1. Approval or denial of petitions for state charter schools, including renewal, nonrenewal, or termination in accordance with SBOE rules. Petitions could be preliminarily approved before SBOE approval if such is necessary for raising working capital. The SBOE could overrule approval of a state charter within 60 days of the Commission’s approval by a simple majority vote of the SBOE.
2. Conduct facility and curriculum reviews of state charter schools.
The Commission’s duties would include:
1. Review petitions for state charter schools and ensure that all approvals are consistent with state education goals.
2. Develop, promote and disseminate best practices to stat charter schools to include replication of fiscally and academically successful charter school programs.
3. Develop, promote and require high standards of accountability for state charter schools and ensure that each school participates in the state’s accountability system. If a school falls short, the Commission would have to report shortcomings to the DOE.
4. Monitor and annually review and evaluate academic and financial performance and hold accountable.
5. Report to each LEA the number of resident students who are enrolled in a state charter school.
6. Direct state charter petitioners to sources of private funding and support.
7. Actively seek, with DOE help, supplemental revenue from grants. It would also be authorized to receive such funds and expend them to carry out the purposes of the bill.
8. Review and recommend any needed legislative adjustments.
9. Act as liaison for state charter school in cooperating with LBOE’s that allow use of space within school facilities.
10. Encourage collaboration with government agencies, colleges and universities and technical colleges, and RESA’s.
11. Administer state charter schools, thereby removing administrative burdens from LBOE’s.
12. Assist charter schools in negotiations with LBOE’s regarding administrative or transportation services to the state charter schools on a contracted basis.
13. Provide annual training for members of state charter school governing councils.
The Commission would have to establish rules and regulations that require each charter school to provide adequate notice of its enrollment procedures, including the use of a lottery if applications exceed capacity. It would have to also provide adequate notice to LBOE’s and to the public regarding Commission meetings. The notice would have to include the petition to be discussed and acted upon as per the Open Meetings Act.
Petitions for a state charter would have to include:
1. A state-wide attendance zone, or
2. A defined attendance zone, and demonstrates special characteristics regarding population, curriculum or some other enhancing feature with demonstration of a reasonable justification for same.
If a state-wide attendance zone is proposed, the petition would have to be submitted simultaneously to the LBOE of the physical site. The Commission would not make a decision on that petition until at least 60 days after submittal or after a decision of the LBOE, whichever is first.
If a defined attendance zone is requested, the petition would have to be submitted simultaneously to the Commission, to the LBOE where the school would be located, and to each LBOE from which the school plans to enroll students. No action by the Commission would take place sooner than 60 days or when and only if the petition is denied by the LBOE in which the school is to be located. The Commission would, however, take into consideration any support or opposition to the charter by the LBOE or LBOE’s if it votes to approve or deny the petition once it is denied by the LBOE.
The charter school would have to “seek highly qualified, properly trained teachers and other qualified personnel. The Commission would have to be consulted prior to hiring a non-citizen and would approve the hiring only if other qualified personnel could not be found, unless the teacher was a foreign-exchanged teacher.
The charter school would have to give preference in contracting and purchasing services to business that have an established place of business in Georgia, unless they do not have the necessary qualifications.
The governing boards of the school would have to be U.S. citizens, residents of Georgia, and cannot be an employee of the state charter school. The members of the governing board would not be allowed to do business with a family member or with a business in which he/she has a material financial interest. He/she could not family or business in which he/she has interest accept favors or gifts. He/she could not use “insider information” regarding the school for any type of financial gain for him/herself, the family or his/her business interests. He/she could also not be an officer of any organization that sells goods or services to the school, except nonprofits. The governing councils of each state charter school would be required to participate in annual training conducted by the Commission.
Existing charter schools would be allowed to continue until expiration of their charters, whether they are local or state charters. They could decided to rescind the current charter and apply to the Commission under the new law, but they would maintain the use of all facilities, equipment and other assets used prior to the expiration or rescission of its charter with a LBOE.
The Commission would be responsible for disseminating information regarding state charter schools to all parents in the state using a variety of media.
The Commission would have to appear before the SBOE to report on the academic performance and fiscal responsibility of all state charter schools. If a state charter school is non-renewed or terminated, they would still be responsible for all debts incurred. LBOE’s could not assume the debt unless a previous agreement exists in writing.
The DOE would pay to each state charter school through appropriation of state funds:
1. Based on school size and number of students in each QBE program, the amount earned from FTE counts as applied to the QBE formula for Direct Instruction to include instructional salaries and T&E, plus operational costs for instruction. It would also include a per-FTE amount for psychologists and school social workers, and additional days of instruction. Included in Indirect Instructional costs would be school administration (one principal, assistant principal(s) based on size, secretaries based on size, and school administrative operational costs). There would also be a per-FTE amount for facility M&O, transportation, school nutrition and all other state grants other than equalization. Beyond that, it would include an amount per FTE for media centers, and 1% of educators’ salaries earned at the state salary schedule entry level for staff development. Not included would be central administration costs or technology specialists.
2. A separate grant would be calculated based on the average property wealth per weighted FTE for the lowest 3% of local systems ( same calculation as used in equalization grants). That average per FTE amount would be awarded to each charter school, based on the school’s FTE, from the state general fund.
[Note: Though each charter school would be treated as a local educational agency like a school system, it would not have Local Five Mill Share deducted from its allotment.]
If the state charter school offers virtual instruction, the allotment would be equal to half of the above calculations, unless the Commission felt an increased amount, up to the total, were warranted. They could also reduce the amount, based on a proportionate amount of virtual instruction provided and the cost to provide it.
The DOE could withhold up to 3% of a state charter schools’ funding for use in administration by the Commission.
No local funds would be withheld from LEA’s based on a resident student’s enrollment in a state charter school.
Allotments could include funds for projected enrollment for start-ups and those schools adding grades. The Commission would have to provide OPB funding estimates for same no later than July 1 of each year. After the first FTE count, funds would be based on actual enrollment [Mid-term adjustment?]
The Commission would be assigned to the DOE for administrative purposes only, and each state charter school would be treated as a single LEA.