SAVANNAH, GA – February 20, 2021 – Leaders in education from across the state of Georgia recently testified in support of Senate Bill 59 (SB 59) to ensure equal provision for students at charter schools. Savannah Classical Academy (SCA) Executive Director, Barry Lollis, testified at this week’s regular session hearing of the Senate Youth and Education Committee in Atlanta. The legislation to amend Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated relating to elementary and secondary education passed through the Senate Youth and Education Committee and will now move on to the Rules Committee.
The Georgia State Senate Committee on Education and Youth has general jurisdiction over K-12 education, certified employees of schools and school facilities. SB 59 is a crucial charter school bill that
the Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA) is championing along with key legislators, including Sen. John Albers, District 56, who is sponsoring the legislation. SCA is a charter school within the Savannah Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS), which supports this important bill which addresses:
- State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) flexibility
- The Quality Basic Education Act (QBE)
- Local charter facility stipends
- Federal funding allocations
SB 59 would allow charter schools throughout the state of Georgia, multiple opportunities to opt into the SHBP. The act would provide an additional opportunity for existing charter schools to elect to participate in the state health insurance plan for teachers and employees. In addition, certain employees of state charter schools would be included in the definition of “public school employee” for purposes of the health insurance plan for public school employees. According to Lollis, “This will help schools attract and retain high quality teachers, specifically in Georgia charter schools that have majority populations of underprivileged students.”
To provide additional QBE funding for each full-time equivalent student within a local charter school, Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated is amended by revising Code Section 20-2-165.1 This legislation would extend the existing per pupil funding weight for charter system students to include locally authorized charter school students, which, according to the QBE Act base of 3.785%, is $106 per student.
According to proposed amendments with SB 59, each local board of education would make educational facilities available for use by local charter schools or provide a facility stipend to each local charter school to offset costs related to educational facilities if a facility is not available. SCA is currently located in a lease-owned building, meaning funds needed for facility upkeep is paid for out of the school’s operational budget. In addition, a local charter school would not be charged a rental or leasing fee for an existing facility or property normally used by the public school.
Finally, this bill would require the State Board of Education to provide for direct allocation of appropriated funds to local charter schools. Lollis shared with the committee that SCA has not been included in the ESPLOST program for the past two ESPLOST cycles, and despite specifically asking the local school board to be included in the next ESPLOST, the local public charter schools will not receive an allotment of ESPLOST funds from the upcoming ESPLOST program.
“Districts are earning this capital credits based off students enrolled in our public charter school, however this capital benefit is not shared with the local charter schools,” said Lollis. “Senate Bill 59 would be a great help to local charter schools in order to level the playing field and provide extra opportunities and support for the public-school children we serve in our local communities.”
SCA is a tuition-free, public charter school serving Chatham County students in grades K-12. The charter school is funded by the public education system but retains a charter that allows it to operate autonomously under a board of parents and community members. It is the philosophy of SCA that all students benefit from a rigorous, content-rich, education program that develops academic potential and personal character. To learn more about SCA, please visit www.savannahclassicalacademy.org.
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