Georgia Charter Schools Association
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State Superintendent Candidates Questionnaires

INTRODUCTION & OVERVIEW TO QUESTIONNAIRE:

Georgia Charter Schools Association is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit membership organization for Georgia’s charter school operators and petitioners. Our mission is to be an effective advocate, resource, and service provider for charter public schools in the state. Candidate for office understands Georgia Charter Schools Association may release my responses at any time to GCSA members and/or the general public. Candidate for office understands Georgia Charter Schools Association, as a 501c3, does not endorse any candidate for political office. Candidate for office understands by returning this questionnaire, either electronically or by mail, conveys their individual opinion.

All questions must be answered. Additional commentary for any/all questions is provided but should be considered optional.

STATE SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT CANDIDATE ALISHA THOMAS MORGAN 

FLEXIBILITY, AUTONOMY, & ACCOUNTABILITY

Independent start-up charter schools are, by law, to be provided broad flexibility by being able to waive Title 20 of Georgia education law and autonomy through self-governance in exchange for the highest accountability possible.

Q1: Some school districts oppose their charter schools having “broad flexibility” as the law allows asking for specific waiver requests under Title 20 instead. Do you believe all charter schools should be entitled to the broad flexibility that the law allows?

YES There could be some exclusion that would allow apples to apples comparisons in areas such as testing and evaluations.

Q2: Some school districts require a certain percentage of parents and/or teachers to participate on the governing boards of independent charter schools. This policy prevents other professionals with different skill sets from board participation. Do you believe board governance service is best left to the charter school to determine?

YES As long as parents represent a significant portion.

Q3: Would you, as state schools superintendent, be willing to step in and recommend sanctions on district or state authorizers not complying with Georgia’s charter schools law?

YES

CHARTER SCHOOL FACILITIES

Independent charter schools are the only public schools in the state of Georgia forced to spend operating revenue on facilities. On average, public charter schools in Georgia spend $631 per student from designated per-pupil operating revenue on facilities costs. For the average size public charter school in Georgia, with enrollment of 373 students, this equates to $235,363/year. Additionally, the state’s annual capital outlay expenditures and inclusion in a local district’s e-SPLOST have been unproductive to nonexistent. Locally approved independent charter schools, by law, are not eligible to receive capital outlay expenditures from the state. To date, only two school districts in the state of Georgia have included one of their locally approved charter schools in an e-SPLOST referendum.

In 2009, the Georgia General Assembly passed HB 555, requiring local districts allow their own locally approved charter schools to use “unused district facilities” at no cost to the charter other than upkeep and any needed renovations to the facility. State approved charter schools are not eligible to benefit from HB 555.

Q4: Do you believe Georgia law should be changed to allow locally approved independent charter schools to receive any funds from the state’s annual capital outlay expenditures?

YES

Q5: Georgia law says local districts “may” include their independent charter schools in an e-SPLOST referendum. Should the law be changed to say local districts “shall” include their independent charter schools in an e-SPLOST referendum?

YES

Q6: Should Georgia law update the term “unused” and to define the term “underutilized” to allow locally approved charter schools to have access not only to unused district facilities, but to have the opportunity to share a school facility which is 60% or more empty for student use?

YES

Q7: Should Georgia law allow State approved charter schools access to “unused” district facilities?

YES I would make it allowable but not require it.

CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING

Charter school funding in Georgia varies from authorizer to authorizer due to different local or state funding levels. Locally approved charter school students are suppose to receive 97% (authorizers are allowed to keep up to 3% for central administration costs) of the funding they would have received if attending a traditional public school.

Additionally, by law, state approved charter schools are funded at about $6,200 per child. This number is the average of the lowest 5% funded school districts in the state. State approved virtual charter schools are funded at an even lesser amount, approximately $4,800 per child.

Q8: Should locally approved charter school students be funded a dollar for dollar equivalent to other children within the same district?

YES We need to revamp our funding structure. All students should be funded based on their individual needs.

Q9: Should Georgia law be updated to place state approved charter school funding on a state average of about $8,400 per child?

YES I believe in equity. All students should have access to the same funding amounts based on their needs.

Q10: Should state approved virtual charter schools in Georgia receive a funding amount equal to the national average for students attending a public virtual schools, approximately $5,700 per child?

YES As an average however funding should be based on student need. 

Q11: If you answered “yes” to questions 9 and 10, will you make more equitable funding for state charters a part of your education improvement plan?

YES

INNOVATION

Charter schools allow for innovative education practices within public K-12 education. These innovative practices are suppose to drive stronger results in student achievement.

In recent months, the Druid Hills community’s “charter cluster” petition, with a clear mandate from parents and staff based on the vote, allowing for all the traditional public schools within the Druid Hills High School cluster to convert to charter status under the governance of one 501(c)3 nonprofit board, was denied by DeKalb County School System.

Q12: Should conversion charters and charter clusters be allowed some type of an appeals process with the State when denied by their local district?

“YES” and “NO” were both provided as an answer by the candidate, eliminating the response and commentary.

Q13: Do you support authorizers, local districts and the State Charter Schools Commission being allowed to establish their own policies for a streamlined process for renewal, replication, or expansion purposes of high quality charter schools?

YES

STATE CHARTER SCHOOLS COMMISSION

In 2012, voters in the State of Georgia passed Amendment 1, the Charter Schools Amendment, allowing for a statewide alternative authorizer of charter schools. This 7-member board is a single purpose alternative authorizer of charter schools charged with promoting quality authorization practices.

Q14: Did you vote in favor of Amendment 1?

YES I am a co-sponsor of the amendment and fought hard to get it passed in the legislature and worked hard to pass it on the ballot.

Q15: If you voted “no” on Amendment 1, would you still vote “no” today?

N/A

 

STATE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT CANDIDATE RICHARD WOODS

FLEXIBILITY, AUTONOMY, & ACCOUNTABILITY

Independent start-up charter schools are, by law, to be provided broad flexibility by being able to waive Title 20 of Georgia education law and autonomy through self-governance in exchange for the highest accountability possible.

Q1: Some school districts oppose their charter schools having “broad flexibility” as the law allows asking for specific waiver requests under Title 20 instead. Do you believe all charter schools should be entitled to the broad flexibility that the law allows?

YES As long as the flexibility does not cross-over the constraints and governance held within both our State and U.S. constitutions.

Q2: Some school districts require a certain percentage of parents and/or teachers to participate on the governing boards of independent charter schools. This policy prevents other professionals with different skill sets from board participation. Do you believe board governance service is best left to the charter school to determine?

YES If a charter school was privately established and operated independently from local control and funding, the answer is absolutely. It is clear that the Georgia Constitution has given local school boards governance and establishment power locally. We must respect our constitution and representative form of government. The election process is our valid method of addressing such issues.

Q3: Would you, as state schools superintendent, be willing to step in and recommend sanctions on district or state authorizers not complying with Georgia’s charter schools

YES All district/state authorizers and Georgia charter schools must be held accountable for not complying with the law.

CHARTER SCHOOL FACILITIES

Independent charter schools are the only public schools in the state of Georgia forced to spend operating revenue on facilities. On average, public charter schools in Georgia spend $631 per student from designated per-pupil operating revenue on facilities costs. For the average size public charter school in Georgia, with enrollment of 373 students, this equates to $235,363/year.

Additionally, the state’s annual capital outlay expenditures and inclusion in a local district’s e-SPLOST have been unproductive to nonexistent. Locally approved independent charter schools, by law, are not eligible to receive capital outlay expenditures from the state. To date, only two school districts in the state of Georgia have included one of their locally approved charter schools in an e-SPLOST referendum.

In 2009, the Georgia General Assembly passed HB 555, requiring local districts allow their own locally approved charter schools to use “unused district facilities” at no cost to the charter other than upkeep and any needed renovations to the facility. State approved charter schools are not eligible to benefit from HB 555.

Q4: Do you believe Georgia law should be changed to allow locally approved independent charter schools to receive any funds from the state’s annual capital outlay expenditures?

NO Current annual outlay expenditures of our existing systems needs to be fully met by the General Assembly. A trip-hammer system of delivery could possibly be developed to open funding with improvements to school funding. However, the General Assembly’s willingness to fully fund education must be taken under consideration.

Q5: Georgia law says local districts “may” include their independent charter schools in an

e-SPLOST referendum. Should the law be changed to say local districts “shall” include their independent charter schools in an e-SPLOST referendum?

NO I firmly believe in local control. I have a constant position of opposing unfunded mandates issued by either the state or federal government. I believe this would conflict with our State’s constitutional position on local control.

Q6: Should Georgia law update the term “unused” and to define the term “underutilized” to allow locally approved charter schools to have access not only to unused district facilities, but to have the opportunity to share a school facility which is 60% or more empty for student use?

NO I believe this would conflict with our State’s constitutional position on local control. This decision must ultimately meet approval of the local school board.

Q7: Should Georgia law allow State approved charter schools access to “unused” district facilities?

NO I believe this would conflict with our State’s constitutional position on local control. I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining adherence to the constitution and our representative form of governance. Forced and unfunded mandates have been greatly tied to an expansion of local cost and debt. They restrict liberty and freedom.

CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING

Charter school funding in Georgia varies from authorizer to authorizer due to different local or state funding levels. Locally approved charter school students are suppose to receive 97% (authorizers are allowed to keep up to 3% for central administration costs) of the funding they would have received if attending a traditional public school. Additionally, by law, state approved charter schools are funded at about $6,200 per child. This number is the average of the lowest 5% funded school districts in the state. State approved virtual charter schools are funded at an even lesser amount, approximately $4,800 per child.

Q8: Should locally approved charter school students be funded a dollar for dollar equivalent to other children within the same district?

NO The above figures appear to include both state and local funding. State government should not remove local control and governance away from the vote of its citizens. Local expenditures of local taxes needs to remain local.

Q9: Should Georgia law be updated to place state approved charter school funding on a state average of about $8,400 per child?

NO The above figures appear to include both state and local funding. State government should not remove local control and governance away from the vote of its citizens. Local expenditures of local taxes needs to remain local.

Q10: Should state approved virtual charter schools in Georgia receive a funding amount equal to the national average for students attending a public virtual schools, approximately $5,700 per child?

NO Average cost vary greatly from state to state. The cost of living from state to state and even county to county within Georgia is significant. Using these numbers in such a manner is fiscally unsound.

Q11: If you answered “yes” to questions 9 and 10, will you make more equitable funding for state charters a part of your education improvement plan?

YES As your next state school superintendent, I will work to make sure that all state schools are fully funded. The funding formula must be addressed. Unfortunately, the General Assembly has never fully funded our current funding formula. They must honor their constitutional obligation to do so. If they were to do so, the financial issues faced by both local districts and charter schools would be non-existent.

INNOVATION

Charter schools allow for innovative education practices within public K-12 education. These innovative practices are suppose to drive stronger results in student achievement. In recent months, the Druid Hills community’s “charter cluster” petition, with a clear mandate from parents and staff based on the vote, allowing for all the traditional public schools within the Druid Hills High School cluster to convert to charter status under the governance of one 501(c)3 nonprofit board, was denied by DeKalb County School System.

Q12: Should conversion charters and charter clusters be allowed some type of an appeals process with the State when denied by their local district?

NO Such action would require amending our state’s constitution.

Q13: Do you support authorizers, local districts and the State Charter Schools Commission being allowed to establish their own policies for a streamlined process for renewal, replication, or expansion purposes of high quality charter schools?

STATE CHARTER SCHOOLS COMMISSION

In 2012, voters in the State of Georgia passed Amendment 1, the Charter Schools Amendment, allowing for a statewide alternative authorizer of charter schools. This 7-member board is a single purpose alternative authorizer of charter schools charged with promoting quality authorization practices.

Q14: Did you vote in favor of Amendment 1?

NO I voted no based on my constitutional beliefs. I felt that the amendment, duplicated an existing appeals process, created another unelected board of governance, and removed local control. This view aligned itself with that provided by the State Supreme Court of Georgia. My decision did not have any bearing on my thoughts about the charter concept of which I approve.

Q15: If you voted “no” on Amendment 1, would you still vote “no” today?

No answer provided by the candidate.

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