DeKalb Schools administration has taken another stab at rewriting the charter school board policies and it is on the agenda for the July 13 board meeting. They have provided answers to many financial and HR autonomy questions. Let me know your thoughts.
• Autonomy – Because the recommended amount of autonomy for charters has changed several times in recent years, the new policies do not address it.
• The district can review the amount of autonomy requested by each petitioner and gauge the charter petitioner’s capacity to operate with that autonomy.
• Substantial Autonomy – The state acknowledges each district will need to define what substantial autonomy looks like.
• The state’s current conversion charter contract template includes a provision that allows district to define the autonomy received by conversion charter schools.
• Funding – DCSD will fund its charter schools in accordance with state laws and rules.
- Proposed – Policy IBB
- Proposed – Policy IBB-R
- IBB Revisions Chart
- Conversion Charter Funding And Autonomy
[This section added on 7/10] Charter school petitioners are given this document to give them guidance in the roles and responsibilities of the charter governance board. The autonomy described in this document effectively gives conversion charter governance boards the same autonomy as traditional school councils.
|Autonomy||Personnel Decisions||Financial Decisions|
|Conversion Charter Governing Board
Local School Governance Team Roles and Responsibility
|1. Participates in the process to hire the principal, submitting two to three candidates for District consideration.2. Conducts stakeholder surveys regarding school and principal performance3. Provides input … [for this and that]||1. Provides input into the school budget2. Utilizes undesignated funds|
|System Level GovernanceRoles & Responsibility||1. Establishes types of positions2. Manages all hiring decisions||1. Manages number of positions budgeted2. Manages fiscal affairs3. Establishes the compensation model including salary schedules, bonuses or performance-based increases|
Conversion Charter School Funding & Autonomy in Proposed Board Policy IBB & IBB-R
Stan Jester – Question: “We discussed that the state gives guidance on funding independent charters and little guidance in funding conversion charters. How to fund conversion charters, financial and HR autonomy are some of the biggest pain points for conversion charters right now. Many conversion charters are looking to renew their charter in August and need guidance from the district congruent with the state memo. The charter policy updates do not address conversion charter funding and finance/hr autonomy. What is the status of updating the charter policy changes to reflect hr and finance? I don’t see any reason we can’t fund conversion charters like independent charters if they are high performing charters requesting that autonomy. ”
1. Substantial Autonomy: The new rule regarding the autonomy to be given to charter schools, both conversions and start-ups, is not final autonomy but substantial autonomy.
a. “Substantial autonomy” is defined as “the nonprofit governing board of a charter school shall have authority to make, but is not limited to, personnel decisions, including selection of the principal or school leader; financial decisions and resource allocation decisions, including establishing the number and type of personnel, curriculum costs, supply costs, equipment costs and maintenance and operations costs; selection of a curriculum and accompanying instructional materials; establishment and monitoring of the achievement of school improvement goals, including approval of the school improvement plan and oversight of its implementation; and operations that are consistent with school improvement goals. The local board shall only override decisions of a conversion charter school’s governing board in those areas where the local board has constitutional authority and has a reasonable belief that a decision will be substantially detrimental to students and is not in the public interest.”
b. The State Board recognizes that districts can define how the autonomy above is operationalized for conversion charters within the district’s current operational framework, a point which is included in the conversion charter contract that is signed between the state, the district, and the charter school.
3. There is nothing in the proposed IBB or IBB-R that prevents a charter school, conversion or start-up, from requesting whatever level of autonomy they desire. Some governing boards may be high quality and request a high level of autonomy–if the Board feels that the level of autonomy requested is appropriate, the Board can approve the charter school. If the Governing Board is not believed capable of wielding the autonomy requested, the Board can vote to deny that charter. By addressing autonomy requests through the approval process, this allows the DeKalb Board to take into consideration specific schools and whether a particular governing board has the capacity to handle the level of autonomy requested. Ultimately, the state cannot take away the District and the Board’s constitutional obligation to control and manage its schools, and so all of these requirements must be read in the context of that obligation.
4. Funding: Both the current and proposed IBB state the district will fund its charters, conversion and start-up, according to law, State Board Rules, and Guidelines. The only legal requirement for conversion charter school funding is that they are funded no less favorably than traditional charter schools. Of course, districts can always choose to provide funding in excess of what is required by law, but this would require the district’s financial office to vet the impacts such a policy change would incur. As it stands, the proposed IBB and IBB-R were drafted to be cost-neutral changes to improve the district’s charter policies and practices and increase transparency. Changing how the district funds its conversion charter schools would have impacts that have not been considered or vetted by the district and would make the policy change cost-incurring for an undetermined amount.
Georgia Department of Education Rules
Charter School Rule and Guidance which was approved by the SBOE at their November, 2014
- 160-4-9-.04 Charter Schools Definitions
- 160-4-9-.05 Charter Schools Petition Process
- 160-4-9-.06 Charter Authorizers, Financing, and Management
- Charter Authorizers, Financing, and Management Guidelines
- Charter Schools Petition Process Guidelines
- State Board of Education Meeting Report November 2014
Related Links and Documents
- Rewriting DeKalb Charter School Policies – Part 1
- OCGA § 20-2-2060 – CHARTER SCHOOLS ACT OF 1998
- 06/01/2015 Agenda Item – Charter Policy Update
- Druid Hills Charter Cluster Petition Saga
- State Memo – charters must be autonomous
- McNair Conversion Charter Petition – Autonomous personnel and financial decisions – Page 33 – “The school will implement a rigorous interview process to select and hire highly qualified teachers”
Proposed policy regulation IBB-R omits this relevant section contained in SBOE Rule 160-4-9.05:
Section (1)(b) last sentence: If a local board denies a petitioner, the State Board of Education or the Charter Advisory Committee may mediate between the local board and the charter petitioner whose petition was denied in order to assist in resolving issues which led to the local board’s denial of the petition.
DCSD BOE and the public should be made aware of the option of mediation as defined in SBOE rule. This topic is not addressed in the proposed IBB or IBB-R.
DeKalb has NEVER followed the law in funding either its startups or conversions. During the Druid Hills Cluster efforts, the county CFO acknowledged that on camera in stating that the district does not fund conversions like start ups or as much (when the law is the exact same for both types of charters.)
Aside from the “no less favorably” language in the statute, there is a specific formula, a floor so to speak. If you look at every charter across the district as I have for years, you will see that they were all funded completely differently.
As for autonomy – it should be people, time, and money. I find it somewhat ironic that DeKalb, which has had excessive corruption, board members removed, and poor achievement in so many schools is the authority to determine if a charter has the “capacity” to utilize the autonomy.
At any rate, they can change the policy all they want. It won’t matter if the staff does not follow their own policy or the law and the board does not have the wherewithal or the political courage to oversee the superintendent, both which have been the case for as long as I have been in the sector.
There is so much to say here. Dekalb has always been tone-deaf (to put it politely) to the State’s position on charter schools. Of all the negative things we might say about GADOE and the State Board, these have to do primarily with lack of follow-through, lack of support, and inability to act. They have seldom been bad actors, yet Dekalb treats them as bad actors and is defiant over an issue that, ultimately, is positive for charter schools and for kids and for the movement, generally.
Dekalb is correct in saying that the state can’t take away their ability to “control and manage” their program, that is not how they operate. What they can (and have and will) do is to serve as the gatekeeper and reject schools approved by the district that don’t align with their clearly-stated (and consistent) position on conversion autonomy. It is wasteful and harmful for Dekalb to take a stand that will, ultimately, result in disruption and displacement when the State denies approval of locally-approved conversions that don’t meet its standard for autonomy. Dekalb would better serve its parents and students to align themselves now to what is coming down the road.
The funding issue is trickier and it will be necessary to differentiate between funding levels (amounts) and funding process (decisions). As we know, GADOE is reluctant to intercede in funding-level issues, but a stronger argument may be made for allowing conversions to have full autonomy over how they spend their dollars as I believe Dekalb envisions a relationship in which many funding decisions are still made at the Central Office. Spending control is a central tenet of school-level autonomy and if the State is consistent in their vision for autonomous conversions, they should support a move for clearer guidance here.
I think they just said, “We can’t define substantial autonomy but we will know it when we see it.”
KC, Regarding § 20-2-2068.1. Charter school funding. Like you said, conversions and start ups are to be treated “no less favorably” than other local schools. However, it goes on to specifically spell out the funding formula “to be distributed to the local start-up charter school”. It does not specify the funding for conversion charters.
Stan, under the definitions in The Charter Schools Act, both conversions and charters are “local charter schools.” No less favorably means that the system could not have a different calculation of all of the requisites of the act that would fund that local conversion less than either he other district schools OR the charters.
The formula in the Act basically gets the schools within the ballpark with per pupil funding. By virtue of other provisions (like the 3% fee), equity under the law is not there.
Conversions can and should certainly utilize services of the system that make sense AND are fiscally responsible. However, they should have their earnings in hand and negotiate for those services, NOT take the left overs after the district skims their district “fees” off. There is no way for a conversion governing board to be fiscally responsible if it is 1) Not transparent how much their school earns. 2). Cannot negotiate for services. 3). Cannot oversee those contracted services. Which means that they lack “substantial autonomy.”
– why are key definitions from SBOE rule 160-4-9-.04 omitted, and what in the world does ‘at arms length’ mean?
– why is the mediation defined in SBOE rule 160-4-9-.05 not included?
– why doesn’t IBB/IBB-R include an appeals process? After the contentious DHCC experience I would think that BOE members would support the inclusion of an appeals process. I realize that it is easier to omit this but I think that petitioners deserve better.
The recent comments from DCSD in Rewriting DeKalb Charter School Policies – Part II are hard to address unless one gets into the details. I fear that not enough BOE members will care enough to take that much time to understand and the effort will be lost.
I believe the point of contention is the term “other local schools”. I believe DeKalb interprets that to mean traditional schools. By that definition, the law means that conversion schools shall be treated no less favorably than “other traditional schools” … and may be treated less favorably than start ups.
Stan, you may be right, but I suspect if it ever went to court, they would lose. The INTENT of the law is clearly as close to equity as possible. And, since the law has a definition of “local charter school” that includes other conversions and charters, as well as the definition for “LOCAL schools,” I think they’d have a hard case to win. Too many references to local. Plus, in 20-2-2068.1, all of the references to proportionate share of QBE, grants, etc. are the same for conversions and start ups. It does not say based on how much the district decides to divvy up to the schools. Proportionate share is the floor.
It is just cleaner if they calculate funding at the very least and put everything in a negotiated MOU. Makes you wonder why they would not be willing to do that. That is just clean accounting practice for the charter and the district.
§ 20-2-2068.1. Charter school funding
(c.2) For newly approved local charter schools, including charter renewals, the local board of education may retain an amount of the charter school’s per pupil share of state and local funding not to exceed 3 percent of the total funds earned by the charter school to reimburse the local school system for administrative services actually provided to the charter school.
This sounds rather specific, doesn’t it?
In #4 Funding, DeKalb County Schools says: The only legal requirement for conversion charter school funding is that they are funded no less favorably than traditional charter schools.
However. Georgia law, as stated in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2068.1, Charter school funding, actually says, ” The local board and the state board shall treat a conversion charter school no less favorably than other local schools located within the applicable local school system unless otherwise provided by law.” [NOTE: the law references “other local schools”; it says NOTHING about “traditional charter schools”, whatever they are.]
Conversion charters MUST be considered the same as start up charters because of § 20-2-2068.1. paragraph (b), where both are mentioned. If that is true, then they cannot be disparate other than negotiated fees and natural differences such as student population and T&E.
I suspect start ups are the only one mentioned in the paragraph you noted because the state has to manually create an allotment sheet. Also, because the start up has no specific population to draw from for QBE to work (since it is a rolling calculation), so a specific description of how to calculate, particularly that first year, would be necessary and would make sense to me.
§ 20-2-2068.1. Charter school funding
(b) QBE formula earnings, applicable QBE grants, applicable non-QBE state grants, and applicable federal grants earned by a local charter school shall be distributed to the local charter school by the local board; provided, however, that state equalization grant earnings shall be distributed as provided in subsection (c) of this Code section. QBE formula earnings shall include the salary portion of direct instructional costs, the adjustment for training and experience, the nonsalary portion of direct instructional costs, and earnings for psychologists and school social workers, school administration, facility maintenance and operation, media centers, additional days of instruction in accordance with Code Section 20-2-184.1, and staff development. The local charter school shall report enrolled students in a manner consistent with Code Section 20-2-160.
(c) In addition to the earnings set out in subsection (b) of this Code section, local revenue shall be allocated to a local charter school on the same basis as for any local school in the local school system. In the case of a start-up charter school, local revenue earnings shall be calculated as follows:
Paragraph (b) says how state and federal funds will be distributed to start up and conversion charters.
Paragraph (c) says that local revenue shall be allocated to conversion charters and traditional schools on the same basis. However, it then goes on to specify exactly how start ups will be funded … which is completely different than other local schools.
Stan, what I am trying to convey is that conversions schools do not get funding as the law indicates – not just in amounts, but at all. They don’t get a disbursement with full autonomy over spending. That is because the district automatically assumes and requires them to use district services, including their finance office. I have seen conversions with $30,000 of “play” money to do the awesome task of implementing their charter. We can disagree on how the law reads with amounts they are due, but the fact is they don’t get funded at all (or at least didn’t last time I checked). And they should. They need the autonomy to do their job.
O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2068.1(a), Charter school funding references “other local schools”; it says NOTHING about “traditional charter schools”, whatever they are.
In other words, Georgia law is saying
(1) CCHS may not be treated less favorably than other local schools in DCS and
(2) DCS may keep up to 3% of CCHS’s earned per pupil share of state and local funding to reimburse DCS for administrative services actually provided to CCHS.
(1) if other schools — any other school — in DCS is receiving, say 115% (or more) of their earned per pupil funding (not including Title 1), then charter schools may ask for that, also, and get it.
(2) DCS will have to provide documentation of the provided administrative services — probably to the state — to receive the 3%. So, it would also be in DCS’s best interests to reduce the cost of the Central Office to 3% of the total per pupil funding coming to DCS.
This, however, does not resolve the problem of what happens if DCS will not approve a renewal.
FYI, Atlanta Public Schools gave Centennial Place Elementary/Academy, a conversion charter school approved by GADOE on 5/12/14, 98% of its earnings.
Generally speaking, I think the problem with their policy and implementation thereof is rooted in their approach to autonomy. Looking at the Charter Schools Act, the legislative intent makes it clear that the purpose of a charter school is to provide academic and organizational flexibility to drive achievement. Flexibility is the key. The statute further states in 20-2-2063(d) that the objective is “maximum level of school governance.”
And to be extra clear, 20-2-2065(a) states that a charter SHALL not be subject to the provisions of this title or any local rule, regulation, policy, or procedure…. what that means is that a district does not get to pick and choose how much autonomy a school may have. They get it all. Even if they are a conversion.
Furthermore, the law is clear on what they can deny a charter for, which limits their ability to be too subjective. This has not been challenged in court, but it will be eventually. I submit that the state’s Constitution gives local districts “control and management”, but that is undefined in the Constitution. The Constitution provides for the state to have the ultimate responsibility for providing an adequate public education – in fact, the Constitution says it is a “primary obligation of the state.” The state develops legislation to define the way in which education is implemented in Georgia to fulfill this obligation.
The Charter Schools Act, therefore, indirectly defines the level of “control and management’ a local board has over a charter. They DO control it by authorizing its existence and manage it by ensuring it complies with state and federal laws. And they maintain it (section V Constitution) by authorizing the charter to continue. It does NOT deal in day to day management. That is not a Constitutional mandate.
I might add that the state has done a VERY poor job with overseeing implementation of state law for charters. They choose to not get involved most of the time, although they are part of a three party contract. Further, despite the state “recognizing” that the district can define how it operationalizes autonomy,” I beg to differ. The law is clear as a bell, as I noted above, when it says SHALL and uses the term ANY law, rule, regulation, etc. That is an overreach in my view.
1. The state requirement that local districts allow resubmission within a petition cycle (IBB-R IV d iii may allow resubmission, but it is not clear to me that all complete petitions will be allowed to resubmit
2. State rules set a rolling timeline and district-response window for submitted petitions, IBB-R IV a states that the district will only accept petitions once each year
3. In IBB-R II b DeKalb states that it will retain 3% for “administrative services and technical support,” whereas the statute only allows for up to 3% to be retained “to reimburse the local system for administrative services actually provided” to charter schools. One could argue that there is overlap, but, if there is overlap, why is “technical support” singled out from administrative services?
4. I question whether or not the district can actually refuse to accept a complete petition on the grounds that they did not attend the district’s “information session”: IBB-R IV c
5. It is unclear whether or not DeKalb would reject a petition based on the petitioner not having supplied the information required in their LOI, but it is strongly implied (IBB-R IV b). If there are items required here beyond what the state requires (You’d need to check), I question whether DeKalb could enforce this.
I received this very thoughtful email today and wanted to share …
I am very concerned about the content of proposed policy IBB and IBB-R on Charter Schools. While the proposed policies are improved in organization and content, I believe the proposed policies are not consistent with the Georgia Charter Schools Act or State Board of Education Rules on Charter Schools. Yes, some language from these documents is included but the controversial items are omitted.
I believe that these revised policy documents serve students and teachers very poorly. I hope that you will read my comments below and then vote “No,” to request more complete revisions for the Board’s consideration.
I have many concerns, but the 2 most important are: Autonomy for Charter Schools and Funding for Charter Schools.
Autonomy for Charter Schools
SBOE Rules and GaDOE contract documents contain requirements for the level of autonomy that Charter Schools must receive, and requirements for local Districts to define that guidance.
IBB and IBB-R do not even contain the word “autonomy” or “autonomous.”
How can the DCSD policy on Charter Schools not address this key principle?
SBOE Rule 160-4-9-.04, Charter Schools and Charter Systems Definitions:
Substantial autonomy – The nonprofit governing board of a charter school shall have authority to make, but is not limited to, personnel decisions, including selection of the principal or school leader; financial decisions and resource allocation decisions, including establishing the number and type of personnel, curriculum costs, supply costs, equipment costs and maintenance and operations costs; selection of a curriculum and accompanying instructional materials; establishment and monitoring of the achievement of school improvement goals, including approval of the school improvement plan and oversight of its implementation; and operations that are consistent with school improvement goals. The local board shall only override decisions of a conversion charter school’s governing board in those areas where the local board has constitutional authority and has a reasonable belief that a decision will be substantially detrimental to students and is not in the public interest.
Note that this definition does not differentiate between Start-up and Conversion Charter Schools, and in fact is quite specific in stating the high level of autonomy that a Conversion Charter School Governing Board shall have.
The GaDOE Charter School Contract Templates (located at http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/default.aspx), contain on page 10:
14 c. Autonomy. The Governing Board shall exercise substantive control over such areas as personnel decisions, financial decisions, curriculum and instruction, resource allocation, establishing and monitoring the achievement of school improvement goals, and school operations, which are listed by way of example and not by limitation. The local district shall create guidance defining substantive control in each area listed above.
This policy revision gives DCSD the opportunity to define autonomy and substantive control for Charter Schools. Yet it completely fails to even address these topics.
Note that the requirement “the local district shall create guidance defining substantive control in each area listed above” is found in the GaDOE contract template for both Start-up Charter Schools and Conversion Charter Schools. Yet the proposed policy revisions do not contain this guidance.
Is it wise to approve an incomplete policy that does not address the key topic of Autonomy?
I believe that “addressing autonomy requests through the approval process” rather than in policy does DCSD stakeholders a huge disservice. DCSD stakeholders considering Charter Schools need to know how DCSD defines autonomy before they commit to seeking a charter contract.
Is DCSD a district that welcomes well-defined local control in its Charter Schools? With no Board-approved policy guidelines on Charter School Autonomy it cannot be affirmed.
Funding for Charter Schools
The Georgia Charter Schools Act, as stated in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2068.1(a), Charter school funding:
The local board and the state board shall treat a conversion charter school no less favorably than other local schools located within the applicable local school system unless otherwise provided by law.
The Georgia Charter Schools Act, as stated in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2068.1(c.2), Charter school funding:
For newly approved local charter schools, including charter renewals, the local board of education may retain an amount of the charter school’s per pupil share of state and local funding not to exceed 3 percent of the total funds earned by the charter school to reimburse the local school system for administrative services actually provided to the charter school.
In other words, Georgia law is saying
(1) Charter Schools may not be treated less favorably than other local schools in DCSD
(2) DCSD may keep up to 3% of a Charter School’s earned per pupil share of state and local funding to reimburse DCSD for administrative services actually provided to the Charter School.
Guidelines for Charter Authorizers, Financing, Management, and Governance Training, to accompany SBOE Rule 160-4-9-.06, on page 11 contains:
Part 2, 1c: A local charter school may request the Department to order mediation if it believes the local board(s) is treating the charter school less favorably than other local schools.
IBB and IBB-R address funding this way (sections II and VI, respectively):
a. Funding for Locally Approved Charter Schools. Funding for a charter school’s instructional and administrative programs will comply with the Georgia Charter Schools Act, State Board Rules, and District policies.
b. 3% Withhold Fee. The District will withhold a 3% management fee from the total state and local funds earned by each of its locally approved charter schools to reimburse the District for administrative services and technical support provided to its charter schools.
This policy revision gives DCSD the opportunity to define how it will fund Charter Schools. Yet it gives no details or guidance on Charter School funding
The proposed IBB/IBB-R does not include the statutory concept of treating “a conversion charter school no less favorably than other local schools located within the applicable local school system” with respect to funding.
The proposed IBB/IBB-R does not include the option of Mediation for a Charter School that believes that the local board is funding it “less favorably than other local schools.”
How can DCSD policy on Charter Schools be complete if it does not affirm a key statutory concept on Charter School funding, include the Mediation option, nor provide details or even guidelines for how Charter Schools are funded (other than the District keeping a 3% management fee)?
Just because “changing how the district funds its conversion charter schools would have impacts that have not been considered or vetted by the district” and “would make the policy change cost-incurring for an undetermined amount” should not mean that the Board should approve a policy that barely addresses Charter School funding. DCSD Charter School policy should at least include Board-approved policy guidelines on Charter School funding to ensure transparency and equity.
Is DCSD a district that welcomes well-defined local control of funding in its Charter Schools? With the proposed policy guidelines it cannot be affirmed.
There are other areas of concern too, but I hope that the two areas I highlighted above and your own review will cause you to vote “No” on the proposed IBB/IBB-R revisions tomorrow, and request that more complete revisions be prepared for the Board’s consideration.
Rewrite of Charter Schools Policy – IBB and IBB-R has been pulled from the July agenda. It should be on the August agenda.
Three more key requirements from SBOE Rule 160-4-9-.05, Charter Schools Petition Process, that were not included in the proposed IBB-R.
“If a local board denies a petition, the petitioner shall not be precluded from submitting a revised petition to the local board that addresses the deficiencies cited in the denial. The local board shall set a reasonable timeline for petitioners to resubmit their petitions within the local petition review cycle in which the petition was denied.”
Not included in IBB-R. SBOE rules require that a denied petitioner be permitted to submit a revised petition, yet DCSD doesn’t offer that to petitioners.
“Furthermore, if a local board denies a petition and cites that approval is not in the public interest, it shall include in its written explanation of why the charter is being denied a detailed description of why approval is not in the public interest. “
Not included in IBB-R. SBOE Rules require “a detailed description of why approval is not in the public interest,” yet DCSD doesn’t propose to comply with that requirement.
“If a local board denies a petitioner, the State Board of Education or the Charter Advisory Committee may mediate between the local board and the charter petitioner whose petition was denied in order to assist in resolving issues which led to the local board’s denial of the petition. “
Not included in IBB-R either. SBOE Rules discuss the role of the State in mediation in the case of a denial, yet DCSD does not offer this as an option. Why not?
FYI, the definition of “public interest” in IBB-R section IV d vii is a greatly expanded version of the definition of “public interest” in SBOE rules. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just that everything after the first sentence is locally generated and thus can be shaped by the Board.
FYI, IBB-R section IV c “requires that attendance at Pre-Submission Petition Process meetings is mandatory for petitioners”. This is a local requirement (not from an SBOE rule). I understand the desire for the Charter Office to be efficient with their time, but we have received very limited advanced notice for these mandatory meetings, such as 3 business days. Petitioners are not always available on such short notice.