Charter school capital-funding rule not simple, education panel finds

A state subcommittee of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission said Friday a draft recommendation to require school districts to provide charter schools “a proportional share” of the district’s annual capital funds will need some changes.

Charter school leaders and supporters have complained over the years that, on average, those schools receive less money per pupil than traditional public schools, including funding for major building projects. Subcommittee chairman Nels Peterson raised concerns about a specific financial requirement for charter schools in capital plans.

“That might well … leave the system with a school that has been built or being built that doesn’t fit into the systems’s strategic plan if that charter winds up performing poorly or going away,” Peterson said during the subcommittee’s meeting.

Other subcommittee members said they understood the concerns and raised other questions.

The subcommittee did not discuss what percentage of capital funds should go to charter schools.

Subcommittee member Hannah Heck said the thinking behind the draft of this recommendation wasn’t to issue a mandate to school districts, but to “include charters in the capital outlay plans.” Heck said she could tweak the recommendation.

The subcommittee is one of several created as part of Deal’s efforts to revamp education funding and some policy areas. They are supposed to make final recommendations by the end of the year.

Deal made education, particularly changing the complicated state funding formula for Georgia’s public schools, a centerpiece of his 2014 re-election campaign.

Other recommendations related to charter schools included: ensuring they get an equitable share of Title I dollars, which go to schools with high percentages of low-income students; and establishing an appeal process for them when there is a disagreement with some state rules.