The General Assembly approved House Bill 430 last night, which assists charter schools in finding and funding facilities and buildings.
According to the AJC:
Legislation to ease access to buildings and money for charter schools was approved late Thursday after a failed attempt to merge it with a school grant program as the legislative session neared its final hour.
House Bill 430 calls on state education agencies to establish charter school authorizing standards, and mandates hearings for charter schools that are trying to obtain unused school buildings. The legislation by Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, also ensures that charter schools get a proportional share of certain federal school funding.
The bill also establishes the possibility of $100,000 facility grants, but those grants can only be made "if appropriated" -- and no appropriation for them is included in the FY 2018 budget. Around $8 million to $10 million would be required, according to the state Department of Education today.
Here is a statement from the Georgia Charter Schools Association on passage of HB 430:
Georgia's public charter schools will receive dedicated facilities funding for the first time ever under legislation overwhelmingly approved on Thursday by the Georgia General Assembly. House Bill 430 also creates new minimum standards for districts that authorize charter schools. The provisions, which were included in House Bill 430, were based on recommendations made by the Governor’s Education Reform Commission in 2015 and strongly supported by the Georgia Charter Schools Association and numerous education reform organizations.
“This legislation is a positive step forward for public charter schools in Georgia and will help them ensure the best possible educational experience for tens of thousands of children,” said Tony Roberts, president and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. “We want to thank Representative Buzz Brockway and Senator Fran Millar for their leadership on this important issue and the members in both chambers who put children first and voted yes on this important legislation.”
As passed, House Bill 430 will create a new $100,000 annual block grant for every public charter school to use towards their facility needs pending legislative budget inclusion. The bill also clarifies how federal title funds are distributed and defines new minimum standards for the charter school authorization process.
Today in Georgia, public charter schools receive as much as 47 percent less funding than traditional public schools, yet they are required to meet the same standards. As originally introduced, House Bill 430 would have addressed that significant inequity; however, provisions focused specifically on the funding gap were removed by the House Education Committee.
Roberts continued, “Public charter schools serve a real need across our state. Most often, they exist in areas where traditional public schools are underperforming and parents are actively seeking a viable, public option for their child’s education. While we are appreciative of the bi-partisan support these schools received this year, we will continue to work towards full funding equity that was proposed by the Education Reform Commission and that Georgia's children who attend charter schools deserve."