GCSA is recognized for its success in advocating for public policies that have propelled Georgia to the forefront of states that are creating a positive climate for charter schools. Effective advocacy must be ongoing at community and state levels, one that promotes equity and adequacy for public charter schools and the students they serve while upholding the tenets by which charter schools operate:
• Flexibility under state law
• Autonomy through self-governance
• High accountability for schools and authorizers
Equity / Adequacy
GCSA believes that all charter public schools — bricks and mortar as well as virtual charters — must be equitably funded. Across the nation and in Georgia, a growing body of research documents the disparity in funding between traditional public schools and charter schools. Georgia law, buttressed by State Board of Education rules, clearly states that charter schools should be treated “no less favorably” than traditional public schools. Yet significant funding disparities in terms of per-pupil funding, facilities, and school/student services, still exist. These disparities impede true equality between charter school and traditional public school students.
Two words distinguish charter schools from traditional public schools: autonomy and flexibility. Georgia law provides charter schools with broad flexibility “waivers” from certain state and local education mandates in exchange for a higher level of student achievement. In practice, however, some charter school authorizers are holding schools to higher student accountability levels without providing the required broad flexibility that will allow the schools to increase student achievement.
GCSA sees charter schools’ freedom from regulation as a source of educational innovation, prompting innovation and increased student achievement. The Association will continue to support operational and educational flexibility for the state’s charter public schools.
Charter public schools are governed, not by a local board of education, but by an autonomous non-profit board of directors. GCSA believes this autonomy through self-governance ensures charter schools have the ability to make more timely, localized decisions with respect to the operational and educational sides of the schools.
GCSA believes every effort should be made to enhance and promote all aspects of charter autonomy. Governing boards of charter schools must have the skill sets to utilize fully the freedoms self-governance provides. The Association must also be diligent in protecting school level decision-making.
Charter public schools are held highly accountable to their academic and operational outcomes in exchange for the freedoms provided by flexibility under the law and autonomy through self-governance. While all charter schools must be held highly accountable, GCSA finds that charter school accountability standards, from authorizer to authorizer, in Georgia are inconsistent. GCSA promotes a consistent, transparent, and thorough process, which holds all charter schools and their authorizers highly accountable.