Mike Klein Online

State Board Expands One Online School and Approves Two New Ones

Mike Klein

Georgia students will have expanded online learning opportunities next fall after the Georgia Charter Schools Commission approved three charters on Thursday.  The state’s largest virtual school will expand its high school curriculum and two new schools were re-approved to open.

The board also voted to reduce the percentage of money withheld from charter schools to support commission staffing and programs.  Executive director Mark Peevy predicted as many as 16,500 students will enroll in brick-and-mortar or virtual charter schools next fall.  The majority, some 11,000, would participate in exclusively online learning programs.

The board voted new charters for Georgia Cyber Academy, which is the state’s largest virtual school with 6,500 students this year, and the brick-and-mortar Odyssey School.  Georgia Cyber previously operated as Odyssey’s online learning option but now they will become independent schools.  Commission board approval to separate Georgia Cyber and Odyssey was unanimous.

Georgia Cyber expects to enroll 8,500 students next fall with 6,500 in elementary and middle school courses.  The remainder would be freshman and sophomore high school students.  The Academy will add junior and senior courses in later years when it enrolls up to 16,500 students.

Georgia Cyber head of school Matt Arkin said the Academy had 15,000 applications this year above those from returning students.  Georgia Cyber maintains a 1,000-student waiting list.

The commission board also re-approved charters for two schools that withdrew from the state education market last summer because they said state payment dollars were insufficient.

Provost Academy Georgia planned to open as the state’s first virtual high school serving up to 800 students last fall.  Provost predicted it would enroll 2,700 students within five years.

Kaplan Academy of Georgia planned to enroll up to 960 students last fall with half in grades 6-8 and the remainder in high school.  Kaplan predicted it would enroll 5,575 within five years.

State payments would have been $3,400 per student which Provost and Kaplan said was less than operating costs.  In December the commission board voted to reimburse $5,800 per pupil starting next fall.   The schools submitted new budgets in line with the larger reimbursement.

Finally, the commission reduced the percentage schools are charged to support GCSC staff and programs.  Legislation that created the commission allows for up to 3% of per pupil funding to be withheld from payments to schools.  The board reduced that percentage to not more than 2% next year.  Peevy said new hires will increase next year’s budget from $700,000 to $850,000.

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

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February 17, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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