Atlanta, GA, September 22, 2013 – The Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA), expressed relief over today’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling that charter schools in the APS system should not be required to contribute to the school district’s $550 million unfunded pension obligation.
The decision affects these APS charter schools: Atlanta Heights Charter School, Atlanta Latin Academy, Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Drew Charter School, Heritage Preparatory Academy, The Intown Academy, The Kindezi School, KIPP STRIVE Academy, KIPP West Atlanta Young Scholars, KIPP Collegiate Academy, KIPP VISION Academy, Westside Atlanta Charter School, and Wesley International Academy.
Tony Roberts, President and CEO of GCSA said, “We are grateful that the GA Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the positive ruling of Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob in favor of the charter schools in Atlanta Public Schools.”
The ruling affirms the funding formula for charter schools prescribed by Georgia statute and prevents Atlanta Public Schools from reducing funding to them due to the district’s long-standing pension liability. It makes the APS pension shortfall an issue for the Georgia General Assembly to decide.
David Jernigan, Executive Director of KIPP Metro Atlanta schools was also pleased to hear the news. “Georgia legislation clearly outlines how charter schools are to be funded, and the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the proper interpretation of the law. The decision restores our funding which will allow us to continue our hard work ensuring more students in Atlanta successfully make it to and through college,” he said.
Matt Underwood, Principal of Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (ANCS) that serves grades K-8 said, “ANCS is relieved to have this legal process behind us, and we are grateful for the support from our community, the GCSA, and others we received throughout. At the same time though, it’s not a moment to celebrate when current students continue to suffer because of a decades old pension problem. I’m hopeful that we — schools, the district, and the city — can find a way to solve the problem for all of our students, no matter the school.”
Charter schools are public schools that are granted flexibility in exchange for delivering higher student achievement and higher graduation rates. In APS almost 10% of the students have access to a high quality charter school while many others remain on waiting lists due to the lack of sufficient seats. These charter schools are demonstrating with committed, innovative instructional programs that all students cannot only learn, but they can also excel given the right circumstances.”
Typically, charter schools are significantly underfunded compared to traditional public schools even though they are expected to produce higher results. This is contrary to long-standing Georgia law that requires charter schools to be funded “no less favorably” than other public schools.