During the April 10 Atlanta Public Schools meeting where the board voted to close seven Atlanta schools, two audience members commented that charter schools were expanding, so I investigated if this is true.
The six Atlanta closed schools are in predominately low-income African American areas: English Avenue, Grove Park, Capital View, Oakland City, and Roseland. One closed school is in a mixed-income area of East Lake, which is only a few blocks from Charles R. Drew Charter School.
The total of Atlanta charter schools, by the Georgia Department of Education (GDOE) lists 18, but APS lists 12. The charters are located in low-to-mixed income areas near: East Lake, Cornell, Custer-McDonough-Guice, Grant Park, Ormewood Park, Reynoldstown, South Kirkwood, Central Park, Vine City, Ashby, Westview, Dixie Hills, Adamsville, and Greenbriar.
The GDOE lists a total of 133 charter schools in Georgia, and there are 5 types: State Charter Special Schools (SCSS), Charter System Schools (CSYS), Charter Academies (CA), Conversions (C), and Start-ups (S). Of the 18 charters for APS, there are 2 SCSS and 16 S. And for Georgia, there are 14 SCSS, 14 CSYS, 15 CA, 31 C, and 59 S.
APS controls 72 Atlanta schools: 50 elementary schools (ES), 11 middle schools (MS), 2 single gender MS academies, and 9 high schools; plus 18 charters, totals 90 under APS.
Some charters in Georgia have reverted to traditional schools or terminated, like Charles Ellis Montessori Academy in Savannah and Adair Park Charter with APS.
Charter schools, started by Ray Budde from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Albert Shanker of American Federation of Teachers in 1988, as “schools of choice.” Charters operate both like a public school and private business, getting public taxpayer dollars. The first one opened in Georgia in 1995 at Addison ES.
Some studies have shown little progress in students from charter schools, like CREDO study that shows that “charter school students can expect to see their academic growth be somewhat lower than their traditional public school peers.” The UCLA Civil Rights Project, found increased segregation at many charters schools in 40 different states, including GA.
Caroline Hoxby 2000 study showed “Whether a student experiences peers of different racial groups or different poverty status is not significantly affected by the degree of choice among school districts.” Yet, Lawrence Mischel found Hoxby studies limited, because the “assessment of school outcomes is based on the share of students who are proficient at reading or math but not the average test score.”
After President Bush No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program in 2001 started to focus on standardized-based test scores, AVP and other factors. The NCLB helped to promote the growth of more charters, if schools failed NCLB standards. If after the 5th year of failures with a school’s AYP targets, they would have to restructure the school into either: a charter, close down, hire a private company or put the state department of education to control the school.
In Georgia, ranked as the 4th in charter school laws, politicians have also helped to expand charters, after the first law in 1994. For 2012, GA politicians wanted to increase charters further with new laws, like H.R. 1162 that would allow the state to create special charters, by establishing state-wide education policies, despite local opposition.
Also, H.B. 797 would create charters that were denied by local school board. If subsequently approved as a state charter school, they would receive their local share of state per student funds and repeal conflicting laws.
New Orleans after Katrina destruction in 2005, experimented with charters by converted all of their public schools into charter schools.
Currently, there are 18 charter schools that serve over 3,000 students under APS, out of 50,000 students in 90 schools; but what will it be in the future? What would be the future of Atlanta with more charter schools replacing public schools, like New Orleans? Was APS's decision to close these 7 schools in Atlanta, a way to bring in more charter schools in low-income areas and expand?
If APS decision to close 7 schools was based on the expansion of charters; only those in APS management, knows the truth. Other than that, the reasons APS closed schools been given before like: the $46M deficit, less tax revenue of $120M coming in for 4 years, low enrollment and the demographic study, has already been debated at many APS meetings.
Atlantans need to dig deeper into APS board member’s decisions to close 7 schools, with little public notice in advance, like 6 months or a year's notice. Otherwise, Atlanta will slowly replace public schools in GA with charters, like New Orleans. And maybe charter expansion, will become a reality for all low-income areas of Atlanta.