Parents Stress Frustration After Mounting Evidence of Equitable Funding Ignored by Charter Schools Commission

After two years, still no funding increase for Georgia’s virtual public school children

ATLANTA—On Tuesday, the Georgia Charter Schools Commission held an almost closed-door study committee meeting to discuss the future of virtual public school funding in Georgia.  Through efforts of the Coalition, the Commission’s Executive Director, Mark Peevy decided to open the meeting allowing parents and other concerned online school advocates to sit in.

Peevy brought in Dr. Allison Powell, a national expert with the International Association for K-12 Online Learning’s (iNACOL) to present data regarding funding processes in other states.  iNACOL is a non-profit 501(c)(3) membership association with over 3,700 members, including the Georgia Department of Education-managed program Georgia Virtual School. Their members represent a diverse cross-section of K-12 education from school districts, charter schools, state education agencies, non-profit organizations, research institutions, corporate entities and other content & technology providers.

Dr. Powell’s presentation concluded, based on all the best available analysis and evidence, that $6,500 is a fair and equitable level for online public school funding in Georgia. She referred to a third-party study by Augenblick Palaich that said, “Independent, national studies suggest virtual schools funding should be about the same as those of a regular brick and mortar school.  Costs for full-time virtual schools ranged from $7,200 to $8,300 per pupil, a savings compared to $10,000 per pupil national average for K-12 education.”

Even though this was a study committee meeting called by the Charter Schools Commission, not one Commission member felt it important enough to even show up.  Three members of the State Board of Education attended via phone.

Georgia Families for Public Virtual Education (GFPVE) President Renee Lord said, “The parents are all really frustrated.  We are not asking for any new money.  We simply want to know why the funds already allocated to educate our children are staying in schools they do not even attend.  These funds are supposed to follow our children, like the law says, to ensure they receive a top, well-rounded education.”  Lord said, “The Georgia Charter Schools Commission study committee met again on Tuesday to discuss possible funding structures for our kids’ education and we certainly hope they stay on track with the law, allowing the funding to follow the student.”

Georgia law HB881, passed by the legislature over two years ago, requires the Georgia Charter Schools Commission (also created by the same law) to provide fair and equitable funding for online public charter schools. Despite the law, virtual charter school students still only receive around $3,200, among the lowest of any state per pupil amount in the nation.  A typical “brick and mortar” student in Georgia receives over $8,500.

On November 9th, GFPVE held its first virtual school summit in Atlanta where local financial experts presented evidence and detailed cost analysis (as specifically mandated by HB881) that the appropriate per-pupil funding level for virtual charter schools is in the range of $6,000 to $7,000. That earlier detailed cost analysis of Georgia virtual charter school applicants was supported by Dr. Powell’s invited expert presentation to Mr. Peevy and the non-present Commission members.

This past summer, two virtual charter applications for high school were approved by the Commission but the applicants decided not to open their schools since the funding level initially allocated by the Commission was too low to operate a quality virtual school.  The study committee was formed following intense parental frustration with the Commission and the decision of the two schools not to open based on the low funding level.

Renee Lord said, “We are hopeful that the Commission will make a funding decision by the December 16th date that they initially promised. We will be very disappointed if they continue to delay and stonewall a decision on an appropriate funding level for virtual schools.”

Virtual public charter schools are statewide, full-time public schools that employ state-certified public school teachers to oversee and guide students’ work.  Under this program students are able to work at home via computer and Internet connection, while still using traditional school materials like text books, under the guidance of a parent or responsible adult.  GFPVE is a coalition representing more than 5,000 public virtual charter school students, parents, teachers, and supporters from across Georgia.

Contact: Bernard Reynolds, [email protected], 404-862-5615,  http://www.gavirtualed.org/news/

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