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Ivy Prep Academy Will Open Two DeKalb County Charter Schools

Mike Klein

Two new state special charter schools will open this month and there is a very good chance their names sound familiar – Ivy Preparatory Academy at DeKalb (for girls) and Ivy Preparatory Young Men’s Leadership Academy at DeKalb.

Monday morning the state board of education approved special school charters for Ivy Prep to offer kindergarten-to-6th grade boys and girls schools in the former Peachtree Hope Charter School location on Memorial Drive in DeKalb County.  Ivy Prep will continue to operate its original 6th-to-9th grade all-girls Academy in Norcross.

Ivy Preparatory Academy was among 15 schools whose charters became invalid three months ago when the Georgia Supreme Court ruled the state charters commission was unconstitutional.  That ruling set off a firestorm nationally and it created a significant challenge for 15,000 students who planned to attend those schools this fall.

Some former commission schools applied for local school district charters; others opted for state special school charters.  Ivy is unique; it will operate in Norcross with a Gwinnett local charter and in DeKalb as a state charter because the DeKalb school board turned down the Ivy application.  Ivy applied to the state only after the local board rejection in a July 11 vote.

Ivy expects to enroll about 600 girls this fall in Norcross.  The state charters will allow Ivy to enroll up to 265 boys and 265 girls in the new DeKalb academies.  Some are expected to be former Peachtree Hope Charter students.  “A lot of the Peachtree parents were asking about this,” said Louis Erste, director at the state charter schools division.

State special charters receive between $2,800 and $3,500 per pupil state funds but no local dollars so per pupil funding is lower than local charter schools or traditional brick-and-mortar schools receive.  Differences also occur because elementary students are funded at higher levels than high school students.  There is also an adjustment for special education students.

Today is also the applications deadline for organizations that are seeking state special school charters to open in fall 2012.  At mid-morning the state Department of Education had received four applications, including two new KIPP Academy schools in Atlanta.  DeKalb Preparatory Academy submitted an application, as did a proposed Latin Academy Charter in Atlanta.

The charter schools division was awaiting possible 2012 applications from Chattahoochee Hills Charter School in south Fulton County, and also Heron Bay Academy in Locust Grove.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Immediate Hurdles Gone, Are Georgia Special Schools on Safe Ground?

Mike Klein

After six weeks of angst, most but not all former state commission charter schools will be back in business this August now that the state Board of Education has thrown them a life preserver.

Nine schools received two-year state special school charters and two had their local district charters affirmed Tuesday morning.  Two other schools received state board approval earlier this month and two or possibly three others are not expected to open this fall.

Truth be told, there were no surprises after the state Department of Education said Monday that eleven schools would be recommended for approval.  But there was substantial relief and a sense the pressure is off just six weeks after the state Supreme Court overturned the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, tossing 16 schools and 15,000 students into educational peril.

“Their futures were settled today,” said a relieved looking state schools Superintendent John Barge.  “We’re happy,” said Stephanie Reid, board chair at the Georgia Connections Academy online learning school which expects 900 students in August.  “It’s an important hurdle,” said Georgia Charter Schools Association executive vice president Andrew Lewis.

Clearing immediate hurdles does not clear the playing field.  All sides recognize there is always the possibility that a lawsuit could be filed to challenge the legality of state special charter schools.  “At this point our legal folks feel confident that we are on safe grounds,” Barge said.

The state special charters authorized on Tuesday are designed to bridge the next two school years that begin in August and end in May 2013.  Several other next steps will seek to clarify the authorization and funding steps for future charter schools that do not have local authorization.

First, the General Assembly is expected to consider placing a constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot that would ask voters to override the Supreme Court decision.  The net result would be to legitimize a state commission that could authorize charter schools and allow local property tax dollars to follow the pupil, even if local school boards disagree with the authorization.

Second, Governor Nathan Deal’s office and the General Assembly have begun a top-to-bottom review of how the state should fund public schools.  The vehicle is a special commission created by the 2011 General Assembly. The bill that created the commission calls for a two-year study, but some legislators would like to finish sooner.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will help.

All nine charter schools approved Tuesday will receive between $2,700 to $4,400 in state and federal dollars, but no local property tax dollars.  The same is true for the Georgia Cyber Academy / Odyssey School combination which the board approved a couple weeks ago.

The state board also affirmed local school district charters granted by Gwinnett County to Ivy Preparatory Academy and by DeKalb County to The Museum School of Avondale Estates.  Those two schools are eligible for state and federal dollars, and also local property tax dollars.  Ivy Prep originally rejected Gwinnett’s charter before later deciding to accept it.

“The bottom line for us was we wanted to make a decision that was in the best interests of the kids,” said Christopher Kunney, who is vice chairman of the Ivy Preparatory Academy board.  “Regardless of the history with Gwinnett, regardless of what was pending or not pending or proposed, we had to think about opening a school in the fall.”

State brick-and-mortar special charter schools approved Tuesday are Atlanta Heights Charter in Atlanta, Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology in Statesboro, Cherokee Charter in Canton, Coweta Charter in Senoia, Fulton Leadership in Atlanta, Heritage Preparatory in Atlanta and Pataula Charter in Edison.  Two digital online learning schools were approved, Georgia Connections Academy and Provost Academy.

Chattahoochee Hills Charter in south Fulton decided it will not try to open in August.  Peachtree Hope Charter in DeKalb County recently split ways with its education management partner and Peachtree will need to submit a new application to the state board, possibly next month.

Tuesday’s meeting was also the symbolic last breath for the Georgia Charter Schools Commission that will officially fade to black on Thursday when the state fiscal year ends.  Mark Peevy, the outgoing and only executive director, has been trying to place four staff members into other state positions. Peevy said he does not have anything new lined up for himself.

There was no cake, but there were many folks saying thanks.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

June 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

School Choice Passes First Important Georgia Court Test

This article was written for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

School choice advocates in Georgia have prevailed in an important Superior Court ruling that upholds the constitutionality of state-created charter schools with partial funding from state taxpayer dollars.  Attorneys on both sides predict this case will be appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court with a final decision sometime next year.  Charter schools are public schools.

One immediate impact is some 300 seventh-and-eighth grade girls will continue to navigate the hallways of Ivy Preparatory Academy in Norcross just outside Atlanta.  Ivy’s enrollment will jump to 450 students this fall when the Academy adds sixth graders.  Funding is also assured next year for the Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts & Technology in downstate Statesboro.

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May 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment