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Will Cherokee Feel Charter's Impact?

Local and state educators can't seem to come to a consensus.

Now that the state Board of Education has given the green light to Cherokee Charter Academy, what impact will it have on the ?

Will there be layoffs? Furlough days? Other cuts?

Local and state education officials agree that will affect somebody. But there's no consensus on who it will impact.

The head of Cherokee County Schools, the system that , said Cherokee Charter Academy could create as much as a $3.7 million state funding gap for the district.

But Georgia Charter Schools Associationspokesman Seth Coleman said it's the charter – not the district – that will take the biggest hit.

"(If) a student from  wanted to go to Cherokee Charter Academy," Coleman said, "they go with the federal money and state money in their pockets, but the local taxes that their parents pay (will) stay at Sixes Elementary and inside Cherokee County. It does not go with that child to Cherokee Charter Academy. There's no financial impact to the county at all."

State-chartered special schools, the designation the state BOE gave to Cherokee Charter Academy and eight other  on Tuesday, aren't eligible for the local, state and federal funds that district-approved and state-commissioned charter schools receive.

They only get state and federal monies, said Louis J. Erste, director of the Georgia Department of Education's charter schools division.

That eliminates Cherokee Charter Academy from an estimated $2.9 million in local funding, .

"It's a tremendous impact to schools like Cherokee Charter Academy," Coleman said. "They're probably going to have to cut some services. They'll have to come up with some very interesting accounting just to make sure that the students that they're going to serve will still get a quality education. So it's going to be a lot of hard work on their part to make sure that it happens."

The Georgia Charter Educational Foundation, the body that governs Cherokee Charter Academy, conceded as much in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

"This approval, while an extremely positive vote of confidence, does not come with equal or even adequate funding to operate high performing charter schools," foundation board members wrote. "We are currently working with other stakeholders in identifying sources for additional funding to assure we can provide the high quality education system we’ve promised."

Foundation board member Lyn Michaels-Carden declined to answer additional questions fromCanton-Sixes Patch.

Messages for school district spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby have not been returned.

The  obtained a letter that Petruzielo sent to school board members after Cherokee Charter Academy received state approval. In the letter, he said the precise loss to the district couldn't be calculated.

"(Cherokee Charter Academy) has yet to provide (the school system) with a complete enrollment list for the school, so at this point we can only estimate the budgetary impact," the Tribune quoted Petruzielo as saying.

if all 995 students accepted to Cherokee Charter Academy during a May lottery enrolled and were district transfers, Petruzielo said the district could lose as much as $3.7 million in state funding.   

As a district-approved school, the overall loss would have been greater.

Friday night, before Cherokee school board members voted 4-3 to deny the charter's petition, Petruzielo said Cherokee Charter Academy's impact this coming school year would have been $6.8 million to the budget. The total impact over five years, as student enrollment climbed to 1,145 students, would have been almost $40 million.

"There is no way that you could have that kind of impact and not make some very draconian decisions," he said during the emotional two-hour meeting.

In the letter to Cherokee board members after the state BOE approved Cherokee Charter Academy, Petruzielo wrote that "the school board will still have a difficult decision to make regarding how to bridge the gap in state funding at the July 27 meeting."

BY THE NUMBERS

During the 2009-2010 school year, the most recent year for which there is data, the state DOE's budget and finance office estimated that Cherokee County received an average of $3,593 per pupil from the state, $3,669 per pupil from the local tax base and $779 per pupil from the federal level.

"It should be noted that the state funding base has been reduced and austerity cuts will be deducted in the coming school year, so the averages for this year will be lower," Erste wrote in an email to Canton-Sixes Patch. "It should also be noted that changes in the property tax digest can also effect local funding."

 

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