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Posted by on August 7, 2013.

APS Superintendent recommends denial of Atlanta Classical charter

For the second time in two months, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis is recommending the Atlanta Board of Education deny a petition for a proposed charter school in Buckhead.

The school board will vote on the petition for Atlanta Classical Academy at its Aug. 12 board meeting. If the school board supports Davis’ recommendation, Atlanta Classical will still be able to apply for state funding.

Davis previously recommended denying the Atlanta Classical petition because he felt the K-8 school lacked adequate facilities, a convincing diversity plan and a school leader. He was convinced to withdraw his recommendation so the applicants would have more time to address the concerns he raised.

Davis said while proponents of the school addressed deficiencies in petition, he can’t recommend it because of pending litigation over school system pensions. Davis said he will recommend denial of all charter school petitions until the school system settles the legal questions about how to fund pensions.

“Until this court case is resolved, charter schools and traditional schools will continue to be funded at a markedly different rate that will only increase over time,” Davis said. “In good conscience, I cannot recommend increasing the financial burden on traditional school students in order to create new schools that will not pay their share.”

The pension case is pending before the state Supreme Court. It is an appeal from an earlier Fulton County Superior Court ruling that determined the school system could not withhold funds from charter schools to honor its pension obligations. Read a summary of the case here.

Here is Davis’ full recommendation for the Aug. 12 meeting.

THE SUPERINTENDENT REPORTS:

On April 19, 2013, Atlanta Public Schools received seven petitions for proposed start-up charter schools to begin operations in 2014-2015.Of those petitions, two, Atlanta Classical Academy and Hind’s Feet Montessori School of the Arts, still require board action. Atlanta Classical Academy was reviewed by a team of internal and external experts and was initially found to be deficient for reasons including insufficient facilities plan and an unidentified school leader coupled with the challenges of opening with eleven grades (K – 10) simultaneously. The petitioning group was given a chance to address reviewer concerns and submitted an updated plan.

After thoroughly reviewing the petition and conducting a capacity interview, the review panel had concerns and requested clarification in four areas of the charter school plan: facility plan, school diversity plan, school leader and opening size of school. Atlanta Classical Academy has now adequately addressed these concerns by agreeing to open with a more manageable size (K – 8), providing a more detailed plan for recruiting and hiring a school leader, providing more information regarding their diversity plan, and providing an acceptable facilities plan.

Despite these positive amendments to the petitions, recommendation for approval of these petitions, or any future petitions, due to the still-unresolved court case regarding Unfunded Pension Liability payments. Right now, this financial burden is carried entirely by traditional schools. Until this court case is resolved, charter schools and traditional schools will continue to be funded at a markedly different rate that will only increase over time. In good conscience, I cannot recommend increasing the financial burden on traditional school students in order to create new schools that will not pay their share.

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