House Bill 797 gains final passage – explanation of bill
March 29, 2012
HB 797 – Charter Schools
HB 797 spells out how HR 1162 would be implemented if Georgia voters approve the constitutional amendment in November.
HB 797 carefully and more narrowly than in the past will provide for additional educational opportunities for Georgia students through state charter schools. Numerous restrictions not contained in previous law are included.
Establish a state charter schools commission under the authority of the state board of education. 7 members nominated by the Governor (3), Speaker (2) and Lt. Governor (2) and appointed by the state board.
Limitations on lobbying of commission members (not in previous law).
– Extensive code of ethics and disclosure requirements pertaining to members of commission contained in state law, Chapter 10 of Title 45.
State board may overrule petitions approved by the commission by a simple majority vote (2/3 vote in previous law).
Duties and authorities of commission, including assuring best practices and high standards of accountability for state charter schools and monitoring financial aid and academic performance(similar to previous law).
Requires the commission to review the citizenship and immigration status of each individual that works at a state charter school and aggregate the information by school on an annual basis.
Requires commission to establish rules and regulations to require stare charter schools to provide adequate notice to the public on enrollment and lotteries (not in previous law).
Requires the commission to provide adequate notice to school boards on meetings, agendas and actions (not in previous law).
Two avenues for approval as a state charter school. (Previous law did not contain the restrictions below, and a petitioner was able to go directly to the commission without a statewide attendance zone or a local denial).
1. A charter petition for a school with a statewide attendance zone may seek approval directly from the commission. Petition must also be submitted to the school district in which the charter school would be physically located for informational purposes.
2. A charter school petition with a defined attendance zone must be submitted to all school districts from which the attendance zone would draw. The commission cannot consider a petition unless the school district within which the charter school would be located denies the petition.
– If the school district violates current law and does not approve or deny a petition in 60 days, it will be treated as a denial. The petitioner may request an extension from a school district per current law.
A local board that has denied a petition shall be permitted to present to the commission in writing or in person the reasons for the denial (not in previous law).
State charter schools shall give preference to hiring U.S. citizens and nationals. If a state charter school seeks to hire employees other than U.S. citizens, nationals or other protected classes of legal residents (such as resident aliens), it must show the commission that it sought to hire qualified personnel with these immigration status classifications and none were available, except for foreign exchange teachers. In all cases, federal hiring procedures shall be followed.
– Immigration status language was reviewed and approved by two immigration lawyers. (not in previous law).
State charter schools shall give preference to Georgia businesses in contracting and the purchasing of goods and services (not in previous law).
Restrictions on state charter school governing boards (not in previous law). Must be U.S. citizen, resident of Georgia and cannot be an employee of the charter school.
Ethics restrictions on governing boards, including members cannot serve on the board of directors of any organization that sells good or services to the school (not in previous law).
Requires members of governing boards to participate in annual training conducted by commission (not in previous law).
Individuals that work at or have administrative oversight at a state charter school cannot serve on a board of directors for an organization that sells goods or services to the state charter school (not in previous law).
Allows an existing charter school to request approval from the commission provided the authorizer (state board or local board) votes to allow it.
Requires the commission to make information available to all parents in Georgia through a website.
The earnings for a student in a state charter school shall be equal to the earning for all students in state charter schools with the same student characteristics regardless of the local school system in which the student resides or the school system in which the school is located, except for earnings for a virtual school may be less.
Students earn QBE (which varies for all Georgia students according to whether he or she qualifies for extra funding for special and gifted education); grants such as transportation and nutrition, only if offered and earned; an increment to make up for the lack of local funding and tied to the lowest 5 property tax wealth school systems in the state; an increment to make up for the lack of local funding to pay for facility leases and tied to the state facilities average.
-No charter school students, locally approved or state approved, in Georgia earn central office funding (superintendent, school board and central office staff) per this legislation and current law.
-A “bricks and mortar” state charter high school student without special needs will earn $6400. The same Atlanta Public School student would earn almost $15,000, including state, local, federal, and SPLOST funding. The same Sumter County student would earn about $9000.
Virtual schools will earn less. The commission will determine if a virtual school should earn any funding for facilities in the event they are a hybrid utilizing a facility part-time.
-Virtual funding will average $4000 for a high school student without special needs.
The Department of Education may withhold up to 3 percent out of each state charter school students’ earnings to pay for expenses of the commission (such as staff to evaluate petitions, conduct training for governing boards, update website, answer questions, provide oversight, etc.).
-The previous commission reduced the 3 percent deduction to 2 percent after one year.
As stated in the constitutional amendment, no deduction shall be made to any state funding which a local school system is otherwise authorized to receive as a direct consequence of the enrollment in a state charter school of a specific student who resides in the geographical area of the local school system.
As with all agencies and programs in the state budget that are not constitutionally dedicated, state charter schools shall be subject to appropriations by the General Assembly. All schools shall be treated consistently with respect to statutory funding formulas and grants (so austerity reductions will be applied to state charter students in the same manner as other public school students).