State school board rescues 11 charter schools

Eleven charter schools whose operating agreements were voided by a state Supreme Court ruling got the final approval they needed Tuesday to serve more than 15,000 students in the fall.

The schools, among 16 in limbo since the Georgia Charter Schools Commission was overturned, are slated to open in August. They needed new charter contracts because the state Supreme Court’s May ruling concluded that the commission, which originally authorized them, was unconstitutional and that local school districts had sole franchise authority on establishing new charter schools.

Nine of the schools will receive state and federal funding for students, but no local funding. As state special charter schools, they will get $2,700 to $4,400 per student.

The schools are: Atlanta Heights Charter School and Heritage Preparatory, both in Atlanta; Cherokee Charter Academy; Coweta Charter Academy; Fulton Leadership Academy in south Fulton; Georgia Connections Academy and Provost Academy, both cyber campuses; Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology in Bulloch County; and Patuala Charter Academy, which serves students in Baker, Clay, Calhoun, Early and Randolph counties.

The Museum School of Avondale Estates and Ivy Preparatory Academy in Norcross are the only former commission-approved campuses that will open as fully funded local schools.

Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said Monday the approval of the schools will not impact the state’s budget because the students were already being funded at other campuses.

“We would have been giving money to the students somewhere,” he said.

Five of the schools also may be eligible to also receive up to $1 million in federal implementation grant funding as a new charter campus to offset deficits.

Charter schools are public schools which operate independently from local school board control. More than 89,000 students, slightly more than 5 percent of those in public schools, attended Georgia charter schools last school year.

A 12th school, Peachtree Hope Charter School, may be considered by the state board in July. The school split with its education management company and had to go back through the process.

Peachtree Hope filed a new application with DeKalb Schools late Monday, said Richard Andre, an attorney representing the school, which is expecting 700 students in the fall.

Walter Woods, spokesman for DeKalb Schools, said another review is needed for Peachtree Hope because dropping the management company is a “significant” change to its approved charter proposal. “It was being managed by a national company, now its not,” he said.

Odyssey School/Georgia Cyber Academy received state approval earlier this month.

Two other schools, Heron Bay Academy and Chattahoochee Hills Charter School, decided not open in August and will apply later for new charters.