ATLANTA—In a continuing effort to guarantee the Georgia Charter Schools Commission follow HB881 and provide fair and equitable funding for Georgia’s current and future full-time online public schools, Georgia Families for Public Virtual Education (GFPVE) parent leader Renee Lord again points to an important report released last week by former Governors Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Bob Wise (D-WV).
The Digital Learning Council’s (DLN) 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning calls on states to implement these important elements to make sure our children have every opportunity to receive a high quality education.
One critical recommendation of the DLN report requires states to provide appropriate funding for virtual charter schools. Ensuring funds already being expended are actually used on the student’s education for which they were initially intended. Currently, Georgia tax dollars end up paying for “phantom students.”
A second critical recommendation in this new report states that “all students have access to multiple high quality providers.” Specifically that the “state provides students with access to multiple approved providers including public, private and nonprofit.” The report goes on to say that states must “treat all approved education providers—public, chartered, not-for-profit, and private—equally.”
“The Georgia Charter Schools Commission currently has pending applications before it to expand the public virtual charter offerings in the state,” GFPVE president Renee Lord said. “We urge the Commission to consider these important recommendations and ensure that qualified applicants are both equitably funded, and applications are approved so that Georgia’s parents can have the kind of choice and access the report strongly recommends.”
Georgia nearly had two new virtual public high schools in June after both applications were approved by the Commission. The two schools decided not to open once they received an extremely low funding level which rendered it nearly impossible for them to adequately operate.
Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) continues to be the only state-wide virtual public school in Georgia. GCA has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the federally mandated benchmark for a school’s academic performance, for the past two years despite the mere $3,200 per student amount it was designated to operate with.
The Georgia Charter Schools Commission has clearly missed the benchmark for setting adequate funding for virtual charter schools in Georgia. Due to this low funding, GCA is unable to provide art, music, foreign language or other elective classes for students. An adequate funding amount of $6,500 per student, as also indicated average by independent sources the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) and Georgia’s own local financial experts, would indeed lower student-teacher ratios in classes and provide these needed elective classes to ensure students receive a well-rounded education.
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. For more information visit Georgia Virtual Education page.