No Local Share For Virtual Charter Commission Schools
by Angela Palm on 6/18/2010

The Georgia Charter Schools Commission met today and voted to conditionally approve two statewide virtual charter schools.  The surprise, probably not a pleasant one for them, was that the funding will be federal and state QBE funds only.  There will be no "local share" added. 

There has been some question as to how much it should cost to fund a student in a virtual school.  A number of studies have been done but there is no consensus -- par for the course in education funding discussions.  At the Commission's request, the Office of Planning and Budget made a recommendation but it was less than the QBE amount.  Commission Chair Dr. Ben Scafidi recommended they get QBE funds but no additional funds (those approximating local funds as the other Commission charter schools do).  And that is the way it will be done.

Here are some details on the two approved schools:

  • Kaplan Academy of Georgia will serve grades 6-12 the first year and then be extended to grades 4-12.  They anticipate having 960 students the first year and 5,575 in their fifth year.  They plan to have certified educators provide intensive monitoring and support rather than relying on parents to follow up.  
  • Provost Academy Georgia will serve grades 9-12.  They anticipate serving 800 students the first year and have 2,716 by the fifth year.  They are targeting students "currently underserved or un-served by traditional educational institutions, and those who need additional flexibility and options to complete their diploma."  Their focus is pregnant students, "socially marginalized" students, rural students, and gifted students.  They will require a minimum of two STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) electives to graduate in addition to the state graduation requirements. EdisonLearning is the educational management organization for Provost.

The approval is contingent on both schools submitting a revised budget and education plan based on the new funding level.  The screening panel also recommended Kaplan's approval be contingent on revising their academic goals and measurable objectives so that all goals are rigorous and can be measured for each year of the charter term.  This was not mentioned today but a Commission member later said they would follow up on that. Commission Executive Director Mark Peevy said he hopes to get the revisions done in the next couple of weeks.

The Commission denied petitions from Mercury Online Academy, a K-12 school, and Georgia Virtual Academy Charter High School.  Georgia Connections Academy, also a virtual K-12 school, withdrew their petition rather than have it denied.

The Commission is looking for office space and expects to hire two people so they can take over most of the work with the petitions.  They have asked the Attorney General's office if they can roll over funds not used this year.  They also agreed to withhold 3% from the new charter funding for administrative purposes.

The next petitions are due August 1st, and the Commission will meet August 20th.