Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Atlanta Schools Committee to Recommend Charter System Status- Following Lead of New Orleans and Other Districts Around the Country

Icy Hudson River- Hoboken, NJ (February 2015)
Referencing some success in New Orleans with their version of an "all charter" district, the City of Atlanta, GA is now considering reformulating into an all charter district itself. Earlier this month, the Atlanta Board of Education posted documentation outlining some of its justification and thinking on the matter. The following is an initial reporting on this issue from Molly Bloom of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that does a good job of presenting some specific details. Similar considerations of becoming all charter districts are being considered in Seattle and Portland, Oregon as well as Cincinnati, OH, four small districts in California, and  York City, New York.

   Cleveland, Houston, and New York City are all using chartering as a strategy to create schools to serve children who would otherwise be stuck in failed schools. In those districts, charter schools make their own decisions about staffing and methods of instruction, while the larger number of conventional public schools run as before. But, a charter district is not just a district with a few charter schools; it is a district with only charter schools. And this model provides potential benefits for all school districts, especially those that are distressed or chronically low-performing. -Dr. Petrosino 

An advisory committee to Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen plans to recommend the district pursue “charter system” status, an organizational structure that gives the district more freedom from some state laws — and potentially a little more money — in exchange for greater state accountability, according to the agenda for Monday’s board meeting.
Becoming a “charter system” is one of three options open to school districts across Georgia. Districts can also choose a model called “Investing in Educational Excellence,” or “IE2,” or reject both the charter and IE2 models.
The district administration has “examined the options,” according to board agenda materials for Monday’s meeting.
“We believe charter system offers the greatest opportunity for improving all of our Atlanta Public Schools,” the agenda item read.
District officials said Monday evening the charter system recommendation was from the advisory committee — not the superintendent.
The General Assembly adopted these new models in the late 2000s, after districts complained that state rules were tying them down.
But Georgia districts have a big financial incentive to pursue either charter status or “IE2.”
Rejecting both options may cause them to lose money-saving waivers that have allowed them to exceed state caps on class sizes and to cut attendance calendars below the minimum 180 days. The waivers, popular during the recession, are still used in most of Georgia’s 180 districts as a way to balance budgets.
In charter systems, officials must re-engineer central offices to support decision-making by local school governance councils. Under IE2 there’s no requirement for those governance councils. Both types of systems get waivers.
If approved, the Atlanta School District would begin operating as a charter system by the 2016-17 school year.