Atlanta, GA (February 7, 2013) – It’s enrollment season for public charter schools in Georgia and emotions are running high. As parents scramble to research their options, visit schools and meet application deadlines, they may discover that Georgia’s best public charter schools — ones with strong academic achievement and a reputation for rigor — have a limited number of openings. The result is a public admissions lottery where names are literally selected at random to fill a class.
Charter school admissions lotteries are the law in Georgia. Unlike private schools or district magnet schools, public charter schools cannot hand pick their students. Admission is open to all who reside in the school’s attendance zone, there are no entrance exams and applications are taken without regard to a child’s previous academic performance. “Cherry picking” or creaming the best applicants is simply not allowed. To ensure fairness, when the demand for seats outstrips the number of available seats, public charter schools must conduct a monitored public admissions lottery.
At rural Pataula Charter Academy in Edison, an applicant’s name is written on paper and literally pulled at random from a bucket by the school board’s chairman. At Atlanta Heights Charter School, a sophisticated electronic system chooses names at random and projects them on a screen. But whether high tech or low tech, lotteries create tension-filled moments for hopeful parents seeking a charter school option. Tears are not uncommon, both for winners and losers.
Charter school lotteries are generally held February through April. Students who do not gain admission can go onto the school’s waiting list. Though waiting lists do fluctuate through the summer, most applicants won’t find out until the early days of school if an opening has developed because someone has moved or changed their mind.
What can we do to expand options for the students who aren’t lucky enough to see their name chosen? “Approve more high quality charter schools!” says Tony Roberts, CEO and President of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. “The recent passage of the charter schools amendment proved that the people of Georgia are demanding school options for their children. We now have a responsibility to them to deliver real change, to expand the availability of high quality charter schools, and to share successes with existing public schools so that all children benefit.”
Kelly McCutcheon, of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, echoes that view, “It’s heartbreaking to see any child’s hopes and dreams crushed. We still have a lot of work to do in Georgia to figure out ways to help charter schools finance facilities so they can expand to meet the growing demand for their schools rather than being forced to use lotteries to allocate scarce desks.”
Here are dates for some upcoming charter school admissions lotteries. All are open to the public. Click on the links for more information about these schools and the time and location of their lotteries.
Kennesaw Charter Science & Math Academy (Kennesaw, GA) February 12, 2013
Oglethorpe Charter School (Savannah, GA) February 15, 2013
The Museum School (DeKalb County, GA) February 19, 2013
The Main Street Academy (Fulton County, GA) February 26, 2013
Cherokee Charter Academy (Canton, GA) March 1, 2013
Baconton Community Charter School (Baconton, GA) March 2, 2013
Brighten Academy (Douglasville, GA) March 4, 2013
DeKalb PATH Academy (DeKalb County, GA) March 14, 2013
Coastal Empire Montessori (Chatham County, GA) March 18, 2013
Lake Oconee Academy (Greene County, GA) March 22, 2013
Atlanta Neighborhood Charter Schools (Atlanta, GA) March 28, 2013
The Kindezi School (Atlanta, GA) April 3, 2013
Drew Charter School (Atlanta, GA) May 7, 2013
Ivy Preparatory Academies (Gwinnett Campus, Kirkwood Campus) Dates Not Yet Set