APS Board to Vote Monday on Charter System Recommendation (UPDATE 1)

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200_briscoe_brown_officialBy A. Scott Walton, Special to the Atlanta Progressive News (November 02, 2014)

(APN) ATLANTA — The Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education (APS BOE) is set to on Monday, November 03, 2014, on whether to transition to a “charter system.”

APS’s School System Operating Models and Flexibility Options Advisory Committee considered several options available to APS, and issued a recommendation to pursue a transition to a charter system to the BOE in a presentation on October 06, 2014

“If we become a charter system that doesn’t mean all the schools will become charters,” Board Member Cynthia Briscoe Brown (Seat 8 at-large) told Atlanta Progressive News.

 

“All a charter system means is that we will negotiate a contract with the State Department of Education in which we tell them what we intend to do as a system to improve student success rates, and we’ll work with the state on ways to measure that and what will happen if we don’t do what we agreed to do.  It’s not as scary as it sounds,” Brown said.

 

When asked if there is something insidious about becoming a charter system that would lead to the conversion of more APS school to charter schools, Brown–the only candidate offering a critique of charter schools to be elected to the BOE in 2009–said there is not.  In fact, she said moving to a charter school system could decrease the pressure to create more charter schools.

 

If APS adopts a recent recommendation from the Advisory Committee composed of teachers, parents, and civic stakeholders, children throughout the City will have their academic achievement measured under Georgia’s “Charter” standards from now on.

 

Board members and APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen have until next July, 2015, to inform Georgia’s State Board of Education which of three available operating models it intends to pursue for the foreseeable future.

 

The Advisory Committee and its advisors have been considering the three options to declare as its operational procedures: switching to something called IE2, which stands for Investing in Education Excellence; switching to a charter system; or maintaining the status quo.

 

The State is using incentives–more like coercive strongarming–to nudge school systems to choose anything but the status quo.

If a school system does not make a decision, or chooses the status quo, it will lose any existing waivers granting it flexibility by the State, Briscoe Brown said.

 

Some of these waivers involve spending flexibility, and losing those waivers would–indirectly–mean a loss of funding, she said.  For example, if APS were to lose its flexbility regarding maximum class size, it would have to spend million in additional dollars on teachers for additional classes, she said.

 

Under the IE2 option, a local district has a performance contract with the State Board of Education (SBOE) granting the district freedom from specific Title 20 provisions, SBOE rules, and Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) guidelines.

 

Under this option, the district must seek at least one of the “Big Four” waivers: class size, expenditure control, certification, or salary schedule.

 

Also, with this option, the school system may maximize school level governance by granting local schools authority to determine how to reach goals, but no change is required.

 

Gwinnett County, Rabun County and Forsyth County are among the districts that have been approved for the IE2 option.

 

Under the Charter System option, a school district has an executed charter from the SBOE granting it freedom from almost all of Title 20, SBOE rules, and GaDOE guidelines.

 

Additional per‐pupil funding under Georgia’s Quality Basic Education Act (QBE) is possible, if it is appropriated.

 

Charter Systems must implement school level governance.

 

The City Schools of Decatur has committed to system-wide charter teaching through the year 2023.

 

The Decatur school system had formed a similar advisory committee regarding charter education, approved that committee’s recommendations in early 2013, and now boasts that it has the capacity to rank in the top ten percentile of performance nationwide.

 

In Georgia, 28 school districts operate under the Charter System, including Marietta City, Fulton County, Decatur, and the Dawson and Barrow County schools.

 

Under the Status Quo option, a local district elects not to request the flexibility provided under the IE2 or Charter System options.  This means that the system will remain under all current laws, rules, regulations, policies, and procedures, limiting its ability to implement innovation and losing the benefit of current waivers.

 

The varying models have been offered by law since 2008, per House Bill 1209, to afford school districts statewide the flexibility to educate and administer in ways they deem most affordable and manageable.  Official Code of Georgia 20-2-84.3 contains all of the details.

 

Briscoe Brown expects the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to receive a favorable vote during the APS BOE public meeting on November 03, 2014, which will be held at 2 p.m., at 130 Trinity Ave. Atlanta, Georgia 30303.

 

The board will then submit its vote to the APS’s new Superintendent, Carstarphen, who is charged with submitting a choice to the SBOE.

 

“What we’ll vote on Monday is whether or not to authorize the Administration to submit a letter of intent,” Briscoe Brown explained.

 

“All of the details aren’t worked out yet.  But what a letter of intent will say is we are going to work toward a charter system of operation, and over the next few months we will fine-tune the expectations for management and results,” she said.

 

“We will not begin implementing what we say we’re going to do until at the 2016 or 2017 school years,” she added.

 

“But we certainly appreciate the due diligence work that the Advisory Committee put in.  There’s been overwhelming support for what they’re recommending.  And it included a really good cross-section of the community. So I hope the Board as a whole will be supportive,” she said.

 

Briscoe Brown advises concerned citizens to review the “Flexibility Options” page on the APS web site:http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/Page/42444

 

(END/2014)

CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that APS would lose funding if it did not choose an alternative countywide operational model.  However, what Briscoe Brown had said was more nuanced, and the impact is indirect: If APS lost flexibility as a result of not choosing an alternative model, then, for example, it would lose its flexibility over maximum class size and would have to expend additional dollars on teachers

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