Georgia legislation cracks down on charter school finances

Charter school board members will have to get training in “sound fiscal management” if legislation approved overwhelmingly by the Georgia House of Representatives Monday also passes through the state Senate.

House Bill 895 by Rep. Rahn Mayo, D-Decatur, requires charter board members to get several hours of training a year. It also builds a firewall between school principals and school money, declaring that the leader shall not serve simultaneously as the finance chief. It passed 162-8.

Financial mismanagement and alleged theft from an Atlanta charter school drew attention to charter school finances last year. In July, the Latin Academy Charter School’s board of directors reported that more than $600,000 was taken from the school. The school’s founder and another staff member had access to the accounts, school officials said at the time. The incident put the school at risk.

At a committee hearing last week, Mayo said he wanted to hold charter schools to a “high standard.” The Georgia Charter Schools Association chief, Tony Roberts, declared full support for the bill. The association worries about bad actors ruining the reputation of charter schools in general, and Roberts said he embraced HB 895 “so the only person who has their hands on the money isn’t the school leader.”

The legislation now moves to the Senate, where it can be approved, amended, rejected or left to die.

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Staff Writer Janel Davis contributed to this article.