Friday, July 11, 2008

Clarke County Charter School (2008 edition)

The Clarke County Board of Education is again considering a charter school, this time involving a partnership among the Clarke County School District, Athens Technical College, and the University of Georgia. The resulting Athens Community Career Academy would be geared toward the acquisition of job skills and college credit.

So far, so good. I am not opposed to a charter school in principle. Quite the opposite is true, in fact, as the proposal is one of the few made by the local education bureaucracy in recent years of which I have approved. That said, I do have some specific concerns as to how the proposal is taking shape.

My first concern has to do with financing. Last year’s CCSD proposal for a charter school was dependent on securing a specific grant from the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education; when that grant application was denied, the proposal was dead in the water. This year, the CCSD missed the deadline for a US Department of Education grant and is now hoping that Athens Tech can get a grant of its own to renovate the H.T. Edwards building, a property that the CCSD owns, at a cost of $3.2 million.

So why all of this emphasis on grants? It is not like the CCSD doesn’t have plenty of money at its disposal. Just last month, it approved a budget that included $9.244 million in reserve funds. Why can’t the CCSD use a mere one-third of its existing reserves, without relying on other education bureaucracies to fund the project, and get on with it?

Which brings me to my second concern, which is that involving those other education bureaucracies poses its own set of problems. The CCSD should be perfectly capable of designing and operating a charter school on its own. It does not have to reinvent the wheel here, as there are successful charter schools all across the country which it could model. I recognize the appeal of involving Athens Teach and UGA, namely that the other members of the proposed partnership have some nice things that they can bring to the table in terms of facilities, expertise (hopefully), etc.

On the other hand, involving other education bureaucracies necessitates having more seats at that table, the invariable consequences of which are problems of coordination and a diffusion of responsibility among different institutions that may not share the same goals and expectations over time. Again, I think that a strong argument can be made that the CCSD may be better off acting alone.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My question is "who is overseeing the development of this charter school?" Where are the forces that encourage a charter school coming from?