Friday, April 6, 2001

Board eyes new charter school policy


The Fulton County Board of Education is looking at revising its guidelines for charter schools.

At next Thursday's meeting, the board will consider a number of changes to its current policy.

Charter schools are becoming more and nmore popular throughout the state, and board officials want to make sure that everything is spelled out for folks who want to start and operate such a facility. The policy under consideration emphasizes that it is a petitioner's responsibility to know all the requirements for a charter school and to stay in contact with school officials about the requirements.

Responsibility for preparing a complete and coherent petition rests with the petitioner, not the school system or its staff. Within reason, staff will provide suggestions and comments, but staff will not rewrite the petition for the petitioners, the new policy states.

One of the biggest issues concerning the new type of school is funding.

In its policy, the system states that the Fulton County Board of Education will treat charter schools no less favorably than other schools in this system with respect to funding for instructional and administrative programs.

Funding for a charter school's instructional and administrative programs will be based on the same formulas used to fund other schools in the system. These formulas vary depending on the school level (elementary, middle or high) and the needs of the specific students to be served at the school.

Because "average expenditures" and other published averages are not used to fund individual schools or school systems in Georgia, averages will not be used to fund charter schools, the policy states.

In addition to the formula amounts, charter schools will receive funds to cover the functions or services that the school system provides for its regular public schools.

The policy states that payments to charter schools ordinarily will be made in equal monthly installments from September through June, subject to subsequent adjustments based on the ten-day count.

However, a charter school may receive up to 3 percent of its total estimated allocation in July and August to cover expenses to be incurred in connection with the start of the new school year.

But charter schools should also seek other avenues of funding. Charter schools are encouraged to submit grant applications to federal, state and local government agencies and private sources.

The policy also spells out who can submit a petition. The policy allows an existing public school in the district, a private individual, a private organization or a state or local public entity to submit a petition, but does not allow home study programs or schools, existing private schools, sectarian or religious schools, private for-profit schools, or out-of-state private educational institutions to apply for status as charter schools.

The petitions must be submitted to the superintendent's office by July 1 of the year prior to the proposed opening of the school. The superintendent will designate a staff member to shepherd the petition through the local review process.

Petitioners seeking approval of a proposed charter school must satisfy the requirements of the Charter Schools Act and provide all of the information required by this policy.

The board will discuss the policy at its April 12 meeting at 7 p.m. at the Cleveland Avenue Administrative Complex.

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