Charter School Snapshot

Get an overview of charter schools in Georgia and answers to frequently raised issues
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Charter Jargon

Find jargon terms defined, charts and statistics, and an FAQ in our Charter Snapshot.Startup Charter
A school that is launched from scratch, with the approval of a local school board or the state commission. Examples are Globe Academy in DeKalb County, where half the classes are in English and the other half are in French, Spanish, or Mandarin; and Amana Academy in North Fulton, which emphasizes public service and offers Arabic instruction at every grade level.

Conversion Charter
Public school that is converted to a charter. This year, Centennial Place Elementary in the Atlanta Public Schools system became Centennial Academy. It’s now the official “lab school” of Georgia Tech, a partnership that will place Tech teaching students in classrooms and use Tech profs as experts.

State Charter Commission School
A school approved by the state commission after being denied by the local school board. Currently, there are 26 state charter commission schools in Georgia, including Utopian Academy for the Arts and Pataula Charter Academy in Edison, which serves five rural counties.

Charter System
An entire system becomes a charter, earning waivers from certain regulations that control everything from the length of the school day and whether Saturday classes are held to how classes are taught. Georgia charter systems include Fulton County Schools, which serves 96,000 students in 87 schools and spans 70 miles, and City Schools of Decatur, which has eight schools and 4,200 total students.

College and Career Academy
A school that, through a partnership with a college or technical school, allows students to take post-secondary courses along with their high school classes. Hapeville Charter Career Academy in College Park partners with Atlanta Technical College to provide classes such as automotive technology, criminal justice, and basic dentistry. At the Academy for Advanced Studies in McDonough, students can jointly enroll at Clayton State University, Gordon State College, or Southern Crescent Technical College.

Breakdown

Charter schools in Georgia by type

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Charter distribution

60%
of Georgia charter schools are in metro Atlanta.

144
of Georgia’s 180 school districts have students enrolled in a charter school.

65%
of charter schools in Georgia are schools within charter systems, which is unique; other states do not have charter systems.

48%
of charter startup petitions and renewal applications reviewed by the Georgia Department of Education in 2012–2013 were approved (32 out of 66).

How does Georgia stack up?

Top 20 States by Percent of Public Students Enrolled in Charter Schools, 2012

District of Columbia 39.3
Arizona 12.6
Colorado 9.8
Delaware 8.0
Michigan 7.7
Utah 7.5
Florida 6.8
California 6.7
Louisiana 6.3
Idaho 6.2
Ohio 6.2
Pennsylvania 6.0
New Mexico 5.0
Hawaii 5.0
Georgia 4.7
Minnesota
4.7
Wisconsin 4.7
Alaska 4.5
Oregon 4.4
Nevada 4.2

Who is served?

Georgia Charter School Demographics, 2012–2013 School Year
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Charter School Students Eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, 2012–2013 School Year
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The charter FAQ

Are charter schools private?
No. Charters are taxpayer-funded.

Can charter schools apply admissions criteria?
No. Charter schools must accept all students from within their zone. If a school has more applicants than it can admit, admission is done via a lottery.

Can’t charter schools expel students more easily, thereby retaining only top students?
No. Charter schools have to follow disciplinary procedures in line with local and state policies and can’t expel—or even suspend—students without due process.

If a charter opens in my district, will it take money away from other schools?
Not exactly. Like traditional public schools, charters are awarded per-pupil funding. If a local system approves a charter and students choose to leave their old schools to attend it, existing schools could see drops in enrollment—hence a drop in revenues. But they’d also see decreased costs.

Do charters get more taxpayer money than other public schools?
No—and in fact, some get less. Locally approved charter schools get the same funding as other schools in the system (though they might have extra expenses such as rent or transport). Schools that are approved by the state commission after being denied by local boards do not get local funding. The state gives them a small adjustment against this shortfall, but on average, state-chartered schools are funded below neighboring schools.

Do charter schools attract more support from private donors?
Possibly. Charters have many prominent supporters. The Charles Drew schools in East Lake, for instance, are supported by the East Lake Foundation, founded by developer Tom Cousins. A campaign completed in 2014 raised $75.6 million for Drew’s high school expansion.

Aren’t charters just a form of privatization?
All charters are directed by nonprofit boards, but some choose to hire for-profit management companies, which raises the question of whether those firms put investors’ needs ahead of their students’. Other management firms are nonprofits, such as the KIPP network, which runs schools in a number of states and is able to achieve economies of scale that smaller startup charters cannot (having in-house curriculum experts, for instance).

As publicly funded organizations, charters must disclose financial records, comply with open meetings laws, and run themselves as any public school would.

Read more: Learn about Clayton County’s Utopian Academy for the Arts in our full story, Held to Account.

This article originally appeared in our January 2015 issue.

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