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Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 2:47pm

Charter Schools Oversight Needs Reboot

Updated: 1 year ago.
A new report from the Thomas Fordham Institute says charter schools’ governing structure needs a reboot now that they’ve been around for 20 years. The Institute gives Georgia high marks for its growth of charter schools. (GPB file photo)

A new report from the Thomas Fordham Institute says charter schools’ governing structure needs a reboot now that they’ve been around for 20 years. The Institute gives Georgia high marks for its growth of charter schools.

The Fordham Institute is a charter schools advocate. Spokesman Adam Emerson says as the number of such schools has grown in Georgia, the state has done a good job of making sure that control remains in the hands the schools’ local boards. But he says Georgia could do more to make sure for-profit management companies don’t try to take over.

He says “My fear is that because they don’t have too many elements in the law that specifically and explicitly spell out the independence of that board, it still leaves too much to chance for that management company to exercise a little too much authority.”

As the number of charter schools increases, they’ve grown to include clusters of schools managed by local boards but run by for-profit management companies called EMO's. The Fordham Institute says some of those for-profit companies have tried to take over.

Louis Erste, charter school director for the state Department of Public Education, says Georgia has done a good job of setting up laws to empower charter schools’ boards.

He says “They need to be able to fire the EMO, and not have the school close. Because the employees need to be employees of the school and not the EMO. The facility, while the EMO could rent it to them, needs to be done in a way that if they fire the EMO they don’t lose the building.”

And he says a study out in January found charter schools are doing well in Georgia.

Erste says “Charters are doing better than traditional schools on everything except high school math I think, and they have caught up with the state on that.”

Fordham officials praised Georgia for re instituting a state Charter School Commission this year to encourage the growth of charter schools.